“DID YOU KNOW”
Byron Nelson’s 1937 first place Master’s check was far from his largest that year!
In April 1937, 25-year-old Byron Nelson won the Masters Tournament, by finishing two strokes in front of Ralph Guldahl and three ahead of Ed Dudley, the host professional.
A few days later Nelson reported to Reading, Pennsylvania as the new head professional at the Reading Country Club. It was a busy summer for the new head man. In May he played in the PGA Championship and in June he was competing in the U.S. Open. Even though Nelson had won the Masters and was fifth on the PGA Winter Tour money list, he had to qualify locally for both the PGA and US Open
Next Nelson was off to Southport, England for the Ryder Cup which was held in late June. In the second week of July he was playing in the British Open in Scotland. Soon after returning from Scotland he won the one-day 36-hole Central Pennsylvania Open at his home course, RCC. Tying for first he won an 18-hole playoff five days later. First prize was $150. The country was in the middle of “The Great Depression” and money was tight.
In early September Nelson was playing in Milton Hershey’s 72-hole Hershey Open, which had a first prize of $1,200. Nelson’s first prize from the Masters win had been $1,500. He would later tell people that he used the $1,500 to stock his golf shop at the Reading Country Club. First prize at the U.S Open that year was $1,000 and $1,200 at the PGA Championship. The best was yet to come, later that month.
In the fourth week of September the golf professionals were in Massachusetts vying for the largest purse of the year, along with some amateurs. The Belmont Country Club was hosting the Belmont Open Match Play, with a purse of $12,000. That year the purses at the Masters, US Open and PGA had been $5,000, $6,000 and $9,200.
Even though the Philadelphia PGA Championship was less than seven days away, every Philadelphia golf professional who thought he could play a little was there, 16 of them. It seemed like everyone was there, 221 golf professionals and amateurs were entered. A 36-hole qualifying tournament was held for all entries with a cut to the low 150 players after round one. After 36 holes the low 64 qualified for match play.
The first two matches were 18 holes and the four after that were 36-hole matches. After seven days and 180 scheduled holes, Reading Country Club’s Byron Nelson and Hershey Country Club’s Henry Picard were in the final. At the end of 18 holes the match was even. In the afternoon there was a steady pelting rain, but it did not seem to bother Nelson who prevailed by the margin of 5&4. First prize was $3,000 which was double what Nelson had won at Augusta in April and Picard picked up a check for $2,000.