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BYRON AND BEN IN TEXAS
Gene Gregston
May 09, 1955
Two of the finest golfers of all time began their careers as skinny kids battling each other for the caddies' championship of the Glen Garden Country Club back in Fort Worth, Texas
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May 09, 1955

Byron And Ben In Texas

Two of the finest golfers of all time began their careers as skinny kids battling each other for the caddies' championship of the Glen Garden Country Club back in Fort Worth, Texas

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The big day for the caddies came just before Christmas each year when the annual caddy tournament was staged. After the competition there was a Christmas tree in the clubhouse, presents for the boys and a turkey dinner.

The 1927 Glen Garden caddy tournament, fourth the club had sponsored, was held on Friday, December 23. If there was a favorite to win this event, it was Nelson, who was by now a good 6 feet 2 inches tall and towered almost a foot above Ben. "Byron was a damn good player," says Hogan of that day.

Competition was at nine holes, medal play. The course, one of the few in Texas with grass greens at that time, played to a par of 37-34-71, and still does. Hogan and Nelson came to the ninth green even, and Ben appeared to be a "dark horse" winner when he got a par four for a two-over-par 39, while Nelson lay three on the green with his ball 30 feet from the cup.

But Byron calmly rolled the long putt into the hole for a four, a 39 and a tie. Then came the play-off. Both boys thought it would be sudden death. And on the first extra hole Ben made a par four, Nelson a six. Hogan believed he had won. But officials, after a discussion, decided the proper procedure was a full nine-hole play-off.

Nelson overcame that two-stroke deficit of the first hole, and at the ninth sank an 18-foot putt for a par four to beat Ben by a single stroke, 41 to 42. Nelson's prize was a mid-iron. Hogan was given a mashie.

The thought that he should have been the winner grew with Hogan. This, combined with the fact that once, after he had quit caddying, he was refused permission to hit a few shots in the caddies' area rankled him.

In 1928 Glen Garden members decided to honor an outstanding caddy by giving him a junior membership in the club, and Nelson was selected. So the tall, baby-faced Byron went under the wing of official Glen Garden sponsorship—he still holds an honorary membership in the club—and the little, sober-faced Ben drifted off to the municipal courses to play and practice. Not until recently did time ease the bitterness that these incidents had created. For many years Hogan would not even revisit Glen Garden.

Ben turned professional early in 1930, while still 17. Nelson followed him late in 1932, when he was 20. Nelson was the first to succeed in big-time competitive golf, but hard-bitten little Ben eventually fought his way to the very top and is considered by many to be the toughest competitive golfer who ever lived.

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