A one-hole, sudden death, playoff against one of the world’s best golfers, Jason Day, was needed for Billy Horschel to win the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament on Sunday, May 21. The suspenseful win marks the tournament’s 35th and final year in Irving
“I’m sad that it’s now leaving, unfortunately,” Horschel said. “I was not a fan of this golf course the first two times I came here. Then I was like, ‘wow, why did I not like this course?’ This course really fits my game from tee to green.”
The PGA TOUR event took place from May 15 – 21 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas. The tournament began in 1968 when Byron Nelson lent his name to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and moved to Las Colinas in 1983. That year, Ben Crenshaw won in front of a record crowd of 45,000. This year, 280,000 fans attended throughout the tournament week, with nearly 80,000 fans attending on Sunday’s final round.
Horschel missed the Byron Nelson cut in his two previous starts and snapped a 30-month winless streak, virtually mirroring Crenshaw’s 31-month drought when he won the tournament in 1983.
All proceeds from the tournament benefit the Momentous Institute, a nonprofit operated by the Salesmanship Club for over 95 years ago. Last year, the Byron Nelson raised $5.8 million for the organization that serves more than 6,000 kids and family members directly each year through mental health and educational programs. In total, over $155 million has been raised for the institute since the tournament’s inception, more than any other PGA TOUR event.
“We have hundreds of thousands of winners because of this event in raising money for Momentous Institute and we’re thrilled to be a part of that,” AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Global Marketing Officer Lori Lee said.
In addition to education and therapeutic services for kids and families, the Momentous Institute provides training and research to education and mental health professionals. In 2016, the institute trained over 10,000 professionals, with over 80 percent residing in the DFW area. The annual PGA TOUR event is Momentous Institute’s primary fundraiser.
The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which has hosted the tournament since 1968, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming kids’ lives. The club began in 1920 and owns and operates the Momentous Institute as well as the AT&T Byron Nelson. AT&T took over as the title sponsor in 2015.
“We were blessed 49 years ago to become good friends with our namesake Byron Nelson,” said Alan Friedman, president of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. “He really fell in love with our charity and the work we were doing. We continue to be blessed by the volunteer work in support of Ms. Peggy Nelson. In fact, she finished her 30th year as a volunteer this week.”
Over 11,000 volunteers helped at this year’s final event in Irving. The Four Season’s hopes to continue Byron Nelson’s legacy by keeping his over 9 foot statue, which sits near the first tee, watching over the course.
“The 9 foot 6 inch statue of Mr. Nelson that is the center point of our golf operation will continue to stand there and remind us every day of the kind and generous spirit that Mr. Nelson had,” said Paul Earnest, Director of Golf for Four Seasons.
The Nelson legacy began in 1945, when he finished his professional golf season with 18 victories, including 11 straight, and established a record for the lowest scoring average (68.44), which remained untouched for 55 years. During his career, Nelson won 52 PGA tour-sanctioned tournaments.
“It’s just so astonishing to realize how blessed I have been to have been married to an amazing man for twenty years and to be part of this starting back in 1987,” said Peggy Nelson, the widow of Byron. “It’s been such a wonderful ride. I’ve met so many amazing people and worked with so many people packing lunches and walking scores or doing whatever we needed to do to make the tournament as good as it could be.”