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Byron Nelson: His Last Interview

THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH KNOWING YOU'RE GOOD

"The way I played in 1945, well, I was in a trance most of the time. My concentration had gotten so good. When I hit a bad shot, I never much thought about it. I just went on. Some people have said, 'All the good players were off fighting the war when you won 11 straight.' Well, Hogan played in 18 events that year, and Snead played 26 events. And at the PGA Championship [which was match play], I had to beat Gene Sarazen, Mike Turnesa, Denny Shute and Claude Harmon. It took 204 total holes, at 37-under. And my scoring average for the year was 68.3. Not that I'm bragging." [Smiles.]

BREATHE EASY-YOU WON'T FEEL THE PRESSURE

"Yep, the streak was a lot of pressure. The best way to deal with pressure is to regulate your breathing. You get excited when you breathe faster, and as you breathe faster you swing faster. That's not good. So you have to slow your walk, and take deep, slow breaths. That lets you keep your rhythm."

DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, NOT WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO

"People think you're supposed to do what you're supposed to do. I don't believe in that. I believe in listening to that little voice inside. After 1945, I was supposed to keep playing, to set more records. But that little voice was telling me something else. I was raised in farm country, and I wanted a ranch. So we found 630 acres here in Roanoke. But I needed to pay for it outright-I don't like debt. It's important to own what you own. So that last year or so, I was playing for records and because I loved golf, sure. But I was playing for Louise and me, for our ranch. So in that last year, I'd hit a good shot, I'd make a putt, and I'd say, 'There's another cow!'"

DO WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO

"One of the greatest feelings in life is setting out to do something, and then following through to do it. I made up my mind that I wanted to win every important tournament in the United States, and after '45 I'd almost done it. But I hadn't won the L.A. Open. Now, I had desires, and I never backed off anything. So I wasn't gonna stop until I won it, which I did in '46. I did what I set out to do. That felt special, and I said, 'So long,' to playing after that."

KEEP MOVING

"Everyone was surprised when I quit. Even Louise could hardly believe it. But I knew this about me: I wanted new challenges, new experiences. I wanted the ranch. I started writing for the newspaper. [Later] I did radio and TV. I've never been much to sit around. I run around, but I can't sit around. Even today, I'm active. I do woodworking. I got a stool to roll along on. Have to have that. I can't sit around!"

DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE... OR CHIP

"I don't smoke. The amount I've smoked would not take the length of one cigarette. And I've never been one to drink. I had the lead going into the last round of the Miami Open in 1940, and there was a party. Someone convinced me to have a glass of champagne. I could feel it some, but it wasn't too bad. Well, the next morning I was pretty hungover. I shot 38 on the front, and I got pretty mad at myself for having that glass. But I held on to win. It was a good lesson."

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