IRVING, Texas(AP) Arnold Palmer called it a “great thrill” to accept an award bearing Byron Nelson’s name.
“I admired him so much as a youngster and followed his career and his game. Then, as time went on and I got to play, I got to know him pretty well,” Palmer said Tuesday after being presented the Byron Nelson Prize. “He was always ready to help.”
The Byron Nelson Prize was established after Nelson’s death in 2006. It’s given to a person or organization in golf who exemplifies the ideals of “giving back.”
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who attended the opening ceremony of the HP Byron Nelson Championship where the prize was awarded, said “anything that perpetuates Byron’s memory” is positive.
The prize comes with a $100,000 contribution to charity. That will be made to the Arnold D. And Winifred W. Palmer Charitable Foundation, which supports hospitals for women and children.
Part of the permanent trophy Palmer received includes one of 14 unfinished wooden clocks that were found in Nelson’s workshop after he died.
In 1968, Nelson became the first player to have a PGA Tour event named after him. Palmer played in the tournament that year and 11 more times, finishing second in 1970.
The Nelson tournament is the biggest charity fundraiser on the PGA Tour, giving nearly $110 million to charities since its inception. That included more than $6 million last year.
“Those things that Byron did over his life were pretty fantastic, and when he won 11 tournaments in a row, I was sitting on the edge of my seat watching and just waiting for it to happen again,” Palmer said. “The whole thing is that he was just a man that continued to contribute to not just the game of golf but to life and to other people. He was a person that I had the highest respect for.”
Nelson won 52 tournaments, including five majors. In 1945, he won 11 consecutive tournaments and 18 overall – both records.
Palmer, who as a kid read a book written by Nelson and considers “Lord Byron” his hero, won 62 times. That is fifth-most on the PGA Tour career list and his streak of 17 consecutive years winning at least once (1955-71) matched Jack Nicklaus for a record.
“Other than my father, I probably got more from Byron and the things that he did in golf than probably any other pro or person,” Palmer said. “I will not say that I tried to copy his style of play, but I did try to copy a lot of the things that he did and some of the discipline that he applied to himself and to his game. … We’re talking about a great man, a great player and a great guy.”
The previous Byron Nelson Prize recipients were Tom Lehman in 2007 and Ken Venturi last year.