R.I.P.: Byron Nelson

Golf legend Byron Nelson passed away today.

I was lucky enough to meet him twice. Both times at the PGA Show in Orlando, FL. But, one time is definitely more memorable than the other. It was probably 4-8 years ago, my memory isn’t that great with dates. Keep in mind that this is the major golf equipment exhibition in the world, attended by merchants, buyers and fans alike. These people are in golf and in the golf business. Byron Nelson was a legend. 52 wins (6th all time, behind only Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods), 5 majors. A record 11 wins in a row. He finished in the top 20 at an event 113 times. One of the greatest golfers of all time.

So, I look in the booklet and I see that Byron Nelson is signing. Byron Nelson is 85ish. He doesn’t have to sign, but he does. (He signed at the PGA Show more than once, evidenced by my meeting him twice and I’m sure he was there other times). Anyway, I see he is at the E. McGrath booth. They had a line in his name (nice shirts, I have several). So, we get close and I’m trying to see where it is and I don’t see anything. We find the booth and there is no line, so I’m not sure what’s going on. It was a small booth, so if there was more than 4 people there, they would have poked out of it.

I look inside the booth and there, sitting behind a table, with no one in front of him, is Byron Nelson. Freaking legend. I went up, got his autograph, thanked him and was on my way. But, I’ll never forget how there was no one there getting his autograph. I was astonished then, I’m astonished now. He was a piece of history, an icon in golf and, in everything I’ve ever seen and read, a great person. My thoughts and prayers are with those in his circle.

Patrick O'Keefe

Managing online communities since 2000, I publish a collective of websites known as the iFroggy Network. I wrote the book Managing Online Forums and, as a public speaker, have presented for organizations like CNN, institutions like Australian National University and conferences like SXSW. More about me.

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