- Byron Nelson
One of only two events on the PGA Tour named after a professional golfer (the other is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Florida), the A&T Byron Nelson tournament has been a linchpin of the professional men’s circuit for more than half a century now. Hosted by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a 600-member civic organization, the competition is one of the major charity fundraisers on the golfing calendar in the United States.
The inaugural event was entitled the Texas Victory Open and it was staged at Lakewood Country Club, Dallas in September 1944. Appropriately enough, Byron Nelson won the contest in emphatic fashion with an aggregate score of 276, finishing ten strokes ahead of Jug McSpaden in second place. Incredibly, this was the seventh of eight professional victories he would enjoy that year.
The competition then underwent several name changes: it was the Dallas Open in 1945; the Dallas Invitational in 1946; the Dallas Centennial Open in 1956 after it had been in hibernation from 1947 to 1955; the Texas International Open when it was held again in 1956; the Dallas Open Invitational from 1957 to 1967 before it became the Byron Nelson Classic in 1968. Since then, the tournament has always had the name of the Texas-born 5-time Major champion in its title.
Sam Snead won the second edition of the competition at Dallas Country Club in 1945, with Jug McSpaden trailing 4 strokes off the pace in the runner-up position. Brook Hollow then hosted the third staging of the tournament 12 months later, when another famous golfing son of Texas, Ben Hogan, added the title to twelve others he won that year, including the PGA Championship at Portland, Oregon.
After a 10-year hiatus, the championship resumed in 1956 when two editions were played, one month after the other, at Preston Hollow. Don January claimed the first one with a 1-stroke advantage over the field then his achievement was matched by Peter Thompson from Australia when he saw off Gene Littler and Cary Middlecroft with a birdie on the second hole of a playoff, giving him his only PGA Tour title in a glittering career.
The tournament had a one-off season at Glen Lakes Country Club before moving on to Oak Cliff Country Club, where eight editions were held during a decade-long residency, starting in 1958. It was here that the second overseas winner, Argentina’s Roberto De Vicenzo, secured his fifth PGA Tour title in 1966, staying ahead of the field by one shot to pick up the winner’s cheque for $15,000.
Preston Trail hosted the first “proper” Byron Nelson event in 1968 and the championship would remain there until 1982. Australia’s Bruce Devlin won in 1969, Jack Nicklaus won back-to-back in 1970 and 1971 then Tom Watson claimed four titles in six years, ending in 1980 with a 1-stroke victory over Bill Rogers, who he also beat in a playoff the previous year.
Since 1983, the Byron Nelson has been held at TPC Las Colinas, with more than a modicum of success enjoyed by non-American players, beginning with Nick Price from Zimbabwe in 1991. South Africa’s Ernie Els won by one stroke in 1995 then the new millennium was ushered in with a first win for a European player when Sweden’s Jesper Parnevik overcame Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson in a playoff for the title in 2000.
Since then, Spain’s Sergio Garcia has won twice (2004 and 2016); South Koreans Bae Sang-moon (2013) and Kang Sung-hoon (2020) have each lifted the trophy; and three Australians – Adam Scott in 2008, Jason Day in 2010 and Steven Bowditch in 2015 – have all had their names written on the winner’s cheque.
You will not see Preston Hollow, Glen Lakes or Las Colinas Sports Club listed below as they no longer exist. Oak Cliff Country Club (now the Golf Club of Dallas) is also missing as it is currently not included in our Best in State rankings for Texas.
Byron Nelson Top 100 Leaderboard