It was 72 years ago today when Byron Nelson won the 1945 Miami International Four Ball Tournament. Between March 8 and August 4, he was untouchable. Nelson won a record of 11 events in a row and shot 50 consecutive rounds under par starting with his first swing in Miami.

Nelson’s record streak took place during WWII. Pros like Lloyd Mangrum, Tommy Bolt, Jack Fleck, Herman Keiser, Ted Kroll, Ed “Porky” Oliver all served in WWII. Mangrum and Fleck were both even involved in the heroic D-Day invasions. Nelson did not serve in the army, but he did play a big role along with other professionals in raising money in exhibition matches. In 1945, with the help of Nelson, PGA members raised more than $100,000 for the war efforts. In all, Nelson won 18 events during the 1945 season.

In this story, I examine the utter dominance displayed by Lord Byron during his record streak over the course of 5 months and 3 days.

Miami International Four-Ball (Team Event)

  • Where: Miami Springs Golf and Country Club
  • Margin: 1st Place – 8 & 6 (Four-Ball Format)
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

Byron Nelson and Harold McSpaden beat Sammy Byrd and Denny Shute in the final match of the $7,500 International Four Ball Tournament. His partner in the Miami event, Harold “Jug” McSpaden, a 17-time winner on the PGA Tour, had a front row seat to the streak. Over the course of the 1945 season, McSpaden finished runner up in 13 events… mostly to Nelson.

1945 Charlotte Open

  • Where: Myers Park Club Course
  • Margin: 4 strokes (playoff)
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In the 1945 Charlotte Open, Nelson and Sam Snead tied at the end of 72 holes with a score of 272. The next day they had a playoff to determine the winner. The problem was that Nelson and Snead tied again the next day with a pair of 69s. Nelson finally won, besting Snead by four strokes in a second 18-hole playoff… a grim match played before an almost silent gallery of some 1,800 people. Already three strokes ahead, Nelson sank a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole to finish Snead off.

1945 Greater Greensboro Open

  • Where: Starmount Forest CC
  • Margin: 8 strokes
  • Prize: $1,333 (War Bonds)

Just five days after he beat Snead at Charlotte, Nelson was back at it again but just at Snead’s home course. Nelson was absolutely dominant. He was 8 strokes ahead of his closest competitor, Sam Byrd.

1945 Durham Open

  • Where: Hope Valley Country Club
  • Margin: Won by 5 strokes
  • Prize: $1,000 (War Bonds)

Byron Nelson shot a final-round of 65 while continuing his unbeaten streak at Durham. In geographical terms, he swept the Carolinas with wins at Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham.

1945 Atlanta “Iron Lung” Open

  • Where: Capital City Country Club
  • Margin: 9 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In Atlanta, Nelson only picked up his pace from previous weeks. He had 22 birdies during the event with rounds of 64-69-65-65. He set a new mark for the Tour’s 72-hole scoring record with 263, a number that would be bested by the end of the year. The King of Atlanta golf, Bobby Jones, said: “When I was at my best, I never came close to the golf Nelson shot in this tournament.”

1945 Montreal Open

  • Where: Toronto St. Andrews
  • Margin: 10 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In his first event north of the border, Nelson continued his winning ways at the $10,000 Montreal Open posting a score of 268 and winning by 10 strokes. In doing so, he recorded the lowest four-day score at a Canadian course in tournament play beating Lawson Little’s mark at the Toronto St. Andrews layout in 1933.

1945 Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Where: Llanerch Country Club
  • Margin: 2 strokes
  • Prize: $3,333 (War Bonds)

In the 1945 Philadelphia Inquirer, Nelson impressed himself. He shot a sizzling, final-round of 63 at the Llanerch Country Club, besting the club record by three strokes.”It was the hottest round of golf I’ve ever played,” he said. Nelson finished the tournament with a 269, two shots better than Jug McSpaden.

1945 Chicago Victory National Open

  • Where: Calumet Country Club
  • Margin: 7 strokes
  • Prize: $1,333 (War Bonds)

Many thought Nelson’s streak would end at the Chicago Victory National Open because of a back strain sustained in the long-driving contest one day prior. That didn’t stop him one bit, as he played through pain to post 13-under par for a total of 275. Once again Harold “Jug” McSpaden finished second. He tied with Ky Lafoon, seven strokes behind.

1945 PGA Championship (Match Play)

  • Where: Moraine Country Club
  • Margin: 1st Place – 4 & 3
  • Prize: $5,000 (War Bonds) and the Wanamaker Trophy

The 1945 PGA Championship was the ninth of Nelson’s record 11 consecutive wins in 1945. It was Nelson’s fifth and final major title and his second win at the PGA Championship (he also won in 1940). Due to WWII, it was the only major championship played in 1945. Over the course of the tournament, Nelson disposed of Denny Shute and Claude Harmon before facing Sammy Byrd in the finals. Byrd, a former New York Yankee, lost to Nelson 4 & 3 and the streak lived on.

Fact: Sammy Byrd is the only person to ever play in both the World Series and The Masters.

1945 All-American Open

  • Where: Tam O’Shanter Course
  • Margin: 11 strokes
  • Prize: $10,200 (War Bonds)

In the All-American Open, also known as the Tam O’Shanter Open, Nelson dominated with an 11-stroke victory over the nearest competitors, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. At this point, Nelson had collected $45,200 in War Bonds… just as much as he won in 1944. This was Nelson’s fourth win of the event in its five-year history.

1945 Canadian Open

  • Where: Thornhill Golf & Country Club
  • Margin: 4 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In his second visit to Canada during his winning streak, Nelson won the Canadian Open by four strokes. At this point, the newspapers were calling him the “mechanical man” for his flawless golf, but Nelson was showing signs of wear. Over the stretch his highest 18-hole total happened in the Canadian Open with a pair of 72s.

Nelson displayed a valiant effort in getting to 12 wins in a row, but was cut short the next week finishing 4th in the Memphis Open.

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  1. I don’t care who your playing against, 11 in a row is a great accomplishment. Oh and by the way McSpaden (17 wins on the PGA), Hogan and Snead weren’t bad competition. Even if Hogan and Snead hadn’t hit their best years yet.

  2. For those who suggest Nelson was playing against weaker opponents, I suggest you consider the number of HoF’ers in these fields as compared to, let’s say any Modern Day golfer, eg. Woods and just add them up.

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