Play TPC Four Seasons Experience Byron Nelson's Legacy

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Play TPC Four Seasons Experience Byron Nelson's Legacy

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter was on site at the HP Byron Nelson Championship and played the TPC Four Seasons at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas, Texas a few days later.

Here is his account and thoughts on that memorable round of golf.

As I walked onto the first tee at TPC Four Seasons, I knew it would be a special day.  I felt like the kid waiting for Christmas morning to come.

After all, I had walked with and followed the pros all week long reporting on their play on the fairways and greens of the TPC Four Seasons.

Now I had the opportunity to play the golf course under very similar tournament conditions.

The moment to put my peg in the ground on the first tee could not have come soon enough for this avid golfer.

The sign at the first tee struck me more than the beauty of the vista of the downhill dog-leg-right first hole.

"Byron's work for the kids continues…"

The words say as much to you as the larger-than-life bronze statue of the true Texas gentleman which stands only a few feet from the first tee.

To say something special happened when the Salesman Club of Dallas, vintage 1920, and Byron Nelson, vintage 1912, came together in 1968 is quite an understatement.

The HP Byron Nelson Championship was the first PGA TOUR event to raise $100 million dollars for charity.

It seemed since the moment I arrived on site I felt the presence of the golfing legend.

After meeting his beloved widow Mrs. Peggy Nelson on Thursday morning, his legacy and her being inspired me.

Never before on stage in the media center, she took the microphone in her hand to tell people why she wrote her autobiography "Life with Lord Byron."

"I wanted people to know that he was even better in private life," she said.

We know Byron for his golfing ability, his television commenting skills and his namesake golf tournament the very first one ever to have the name of a PGA TOUR golfer.

Byron was as Peggy would call it, "a total, consistent grace."

As inspiring as Byron was, this woman is incredibly vibrant and beautiful in her own way.

She shared how she learned Byron had passed and what she felt at that moment.

"I came back from Bible study, there he was, already gone to heaven, and I chose in that moment to simply be glad for him, knowing where he was," said Peggy.  "In fact, I remember I put my hand on his cheek and I said, 'I'm so glad you're in heaven now.'"

People inquire as to whether she misses him?

"I don't want to go down that sad road; there is no end to that one," Peggy said.  "So why not be happy for all the great times we had with him and great memories and the fact that he was the real deal, always."

Byron is a "born encourager" and Peggy inspires us to live life to its fullest.

Today was the day for me to thoroughly enjoy the confines of TPC Four Seasons amidst the aura the great golfing legend.

I played from the blue tees at 6,548 yards.

With a rating of 73.2, and slope of 136 I knew it was all the golf course I needed, even on a good day.

I quickly realized the golf course was still playing hard and fast, especially around the greens.

Blasting from the greenside bunker on No. 1 and chipping from a closely mowed swale area on No. 2 I was unable to stop the ball on the green.

Even though I knew they were fast and adjusted accordingly I put myself in short-sided positions from which bogeys were not possible.

I rejoiced in recognizing the challenges of the recent D.A. Weibring and Steve Wolfard redesign of the 1983 original Jay Morrish beauty.

After all, the Lord himself along with Ben Crenshaw had a hand in assisting Morrish as player consultants.

The words of Steve Elkington who opened with a pair of 66s and finished T16 rang true to me.

"This course is like playing pool…that's what this course is all about, angles. Doesn't matter if you are a long hitter or a short hitter, you can still do it," said Elkington.

I was "doing it" by taking additional strokes to get that little white ball in the hole.

No matter, the golf course had me totally engaged from the get-go.

My only comment on the condition of the golf course came to mind as I battled the rough down the left side of the long and difficult third hole.

The tournament is over—please cut the rough!

I did pitch up and make a short putt for bogey.

Maybe I was growing accustom to the fast, large sectioned greens, with Pat Green "wave-on-wave" undulations throughout.

The next few holes I started playing better.

Maybe I was naturally settling down or being inspired by the hole markers proclaiming the statistical accomplishments of Byron Nelson?

In 1945, Byron Nelson recorded 18 victories in 30 starts, was under par for 22 straight rounds, and had an average score of 68.33.

Byron Nelson won 34 of his 52 PGA Tour titles from 1944-1946.

Over his career he won six tournaments by more than 10 strokes and finished in the Top 5 in Majors 73 percent of the time.

I was now consistently hitting some greens and making par.

Maybe it was the five star service?

I thought the five star service was only in the resort, but I was wrong.

When we jumped into the golf cart to head for the practice facility to warm up there was a cool refreshing mango flavored towel ready for us before we realized we needed one.

Ditto for the course marshal who came up to us on the sixth tee.

Not only were our faces aromatically refreshed, he brought us cool crisp apples and perfectly ripe bananas.

Now this golf course was beginning to feel like the Garden of Eden!

So refreshed, so inspired I was in the zone missing a makeable birdie on No. 7, two-putting No. 8 for par and chipping in for birdie on No. 10.

The high point of the golf course comes at the seventh green with dramatic views of the Dallas Fort Worth area and downtown Irving right in front of you.

On October 16, 2006 Byron Nelson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, The Highest honor given to a civilian in the United States.

Nelson's legacy permeates this place whether it is in the views of the seventh green or from his seat above the 18th green where he use to watch the play and greet each golfer after they finished.

I felt good about posting a front nine 41 after a double-double start.

Making a birdie always gets you in the right frame of mind.

I couldn't wait to play the short 323-yard par-4 11th hole.

We played it from the back tee across the water since that angle really makes the hole extremely visually appealing.

I bombed a drive but chili-dipped my short pitch to the back left hole location on the angled to the fairway slipper green.

I followed Matt Weibring on Sunday as did his father and golf course re-designer D.A. Weibring.

It was interesting to watch the son play, and watch the father watch the son play.

On No. 11 Matt hit his drive long into the right rough.

The hole was perched short front right with a huge swale dividing the green.

With the new old grooves, Matt hit a flyer on his pitch and the ball ran landing past the hole then running down the slope almost into the far left water hazard.

Now Matt was faced with an 80-foot putt with the last 10-to-20 feet up a steep slope.

The hole looked to be perched on top of a pitcher's mound.

I am sure father and son had many skull sections about the design of TPC Four Seasons and how to strategically play the course.

But there was no margin for error for that hole position on the 11th green.

The son putted the ball up the slope and with no friction to stop it, the ball continued down the front slope finishing well off the green.

In my opinion eight out of 10 pros would do the same thing, or leave the putt drastically short.

It had to be hard for the father to watch the son knowing his design had challenged him to the limit and then some.

To his credit, Matt pitched his ball up on the pitcher's mound and made the putt for a good bogey.

The climax of the father designer son player round came at the uphill par-5 16th hole where Matt had a 15-footer for birdie.

Again father watching, knowing the break and knowing the son knew the break too.

Son rolled the rock right into the hole.

Afterwards, father and son embraced with some back slapping celebration on the walk to the 17th tee.

After my own personal failure at the 11th, I was able to pitch it up and make a good bogey.

The cart girl, Janie—like no other cart girl—professionally pampered us more as we came off the 12th tee.

With beverage, food, sound golfing advice and the personality to make us feel like we were her only guests, that day we were unduly delayed with the foursome of ladies catching up to a rather pathetic twosome of men.

Her other job is conducting charity auctions.

No doubt the most successful charity auctions in all of Texas, perhaps the country.

I was hoping both the long par-4 third and 15th holes would be par-5s on the members' scorecard—not.

Once again as the back nine progressed the rough caused a temporary demise in my game.

After unsuccessfully holding the 16th green from the greenside bunker like I did on No. 1, I set my sights on finishing strong.

As the signature par-3 17th hole came into view I was excited to see the hole in its historic Sunday far right location.

Any miss right means water.

Like the sensational 16-year old amateur Jordan Speith, I was determined to go for the hole.

Ace, deuce or par would be memorable, even a bogey or worse was okay as long as I went for it.

"You're going to look back and say that you wish you'd fired at this pin, even if it goes into the rocks or the water," I thouht.  "You've got to try to make a hole in one here."

When does a 16-year old kid ever look back?

I look back all the time because there is likely more years behind me than in front.

Taking dead aim, my 5-iron stayed true and surprisingly carried well over the flagstick and released to the fringe area.

With a good chip-putt I achieved my par which will be a lifelong story and cherished memory.

The 18th is likely a signature hole too.

One is drawn to stop and simply gaze at the slightly uphill, slightly dogleg left 429-yard par-4 finishing hole.

It fits the eye perfectly with the green and flagstick visible from the tee.

One quickly picks up the four lakes and cascading water short left of the green back to the area in the fairway where one's drive will hopefully land.

That landing area gradually rises, and is clearly defined by the water left and large bunker and live oak trees right.

There is no bailout on the final stretch to the clubhouse.

Having witnessed the watery Sunday finish for both champion Jason Day and challenger Blake Adams my challenge was to get them out of my mind as I put my peg in the ground for the last time, this time, at TPC Four Seasons.

A par-par finish would be the ideal way for this truly memorable round of golf to end.

After a good drive, I used too much club and was left with a no chance downhill putt on the last.

But even with a three-jack on the last and a back nine 43 I hit the ball well enough to thoroughly enjoy the challenge of TPC Four Seasons.

I whole-heartedly agree with the comments of Steve Elkington.

The intrigue, the design and the playability of this course is there for any player.

Whether man or woman playing from any of the four sets of tees, playing TPC Four Seasons is a must on anyone's "must play" list.

Walking off the 18th green and up the hill towards the resort one is again in the presence of the statue of the bigger-than-life man.

 The sign on the 18th tee says it all.

"Byron Nelson: A Champion… A Gentleman… Our Inspiration."

Raised in my hometown of Binghamton. New York I would wander over to one of the other "Triple Cities" and play En Joie Golf Club.

En Joie previously hosted the PGA TOUR's B.C. Open and now hosts the Champions Tour's Dick's Sporting Goods Open.

En Joie's motto is "play where the pros play."

After playing TPC Four Seasons I think their motto should be—"play where the pros play and where you are treated better than a pro!"

Make your reservations now!

 

 

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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