1937 Masters: Lord Byron's maiden major

March, 13, 2011

The fourth edition of the annual Masters Tournament looked different than the previous three before the first competitive shot was ever struck. For the first time, Augusta National Golf Club members outfitted themselves in green blazers while on the course, so as to be more easily identified by fans seeking information or guidance.

Perhaps that was only a fitting prequel to an event that unearthed great drama during competition, but is remembered more to this day for a few significant aftereffects.

Masters Top 25 Moment -- No. 22

We'll get to those, but first the golf: This one quickly turned into a two-man race, with third-round leader Ralph Guldahl in position to win on the back nine on Sunday afternoon -- until he came to the notorious par-3 12th hole. The leader hit his tee shot into Rae's Creek and made double-bogey, then could only manage bogey on the subsequent par-5 13th.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old upstart Byron Nelson smelled an opening.

"After I made par on No. 11, I got to the 12th tee and saw Ralph dropping a ball short of Rae's Creek," Nelson told Golf Digest in 2006. "He'd gone in the water on that difficult par-3. You know those newspaper cartoons? Where you see a light bulb over a character's head for an idea that just came to mind? Well, that was me. I knew I could make some ground up right there."

And so he did. Nelson countered with a birdie-eagle stretch on those two holes for a six-stroke differential in what would eventually be a two-shot win over the floundering Guldahl.

"My first major victory, and the most important tournament I ever won," said Nelson, who won five major championship titles before retiring at age 34. "Obviously, to win there was a tremendous boost to my confidence and my career."

Despite making up so much ground in a hurry, Nelson's two real legacies from that week came off the course.

One day after the win, famed sports writer O.B. Keeler's story was framed by the headline: "Lord Byron Wins Masters." In those days, it didn't take much more for a nickname to stick. Despite being a teetotaler compared to the hard-living poet of the same name, Nelson lived the rest of his days with the moniker "Lord" preceding his name.

The other lasting image was created more than two decades later. Dedicated on April 2, 1958, the Nelson Bridge leading to the 13th tee box commemorates his vintage come-from-behind performance. Every Masters champion since that day has walked across that bridge bearing his name, but perhaps none have played those holes better in pursuit of victory.

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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