Larry Nelson Named 2023 Memorial Honored Player | Golf News and Tour Information

DUBLIN, Ohio — Larry Nelson, who didn’t buy a golf club until he was 21 but won three major championships, has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Memorial Tournament.

Nelson, 74, will be the 81st player to be honored by the Captains Club at Muirfield Village Golf Club since Jack Nicklaus launched the Memorial Tournament in 1976. Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and trailblazer Charlie Sifford were the honorees this year.

A native of Alabama, Nelson distinguished himself in two sports, baseball and basketball, before being drafted into the army in 1968 and serving in Vietnam. While overseas, a fellow infantryman suggested he take up golf. “Until then, I really thought it was a sissy sport,” Nelson said. “But the guy who told me [about it] hadn’t shaved in about two weeks, and he hadn’t bathed longer than that and he had an M-16, and I didn’t want to tell him what I thought of golf.

After being discharged from the military, Nelson attended Kennesaw Junior College, where he played baseball until he injured his pitching arm. Still intending to try golf when he returned home, Nelson received a set of clubs from his wife Gayle and dove seriously into the game after carefully reading Ben Hogan’s book, The Five Fundamentals of Golf. The first time he played 18 holes, he beat 100. In nine months, he managed to break 70.

“Golf seemed like a logical thing,” Nelson said. “I started playing golf, I got better every day and I fell in love with it.”

Nelson turned pro in 1971, as an assistant pro at Pine Tree Golf Club in Kennesaw, Georgia. Two years later, he moved to Florida to compete in mini-tours, but soon made his way onto the PGA Tour.

In 1979, after six years on tour, he twice won second place on the money list behind Tom Watson and qualified for the USA Ryder Cup team, where he went 5-0-0. against Europe at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, one of only five men to post a perfect five-game record in the modern Ryder Cup era

Nelson really came into his own in 1981 when he won the first of his two PGA Championships at the Atlanta Athletic Club, with a four-stroke win over Fuzzy Zoeller. In 1987, at the PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, he defeated Lanny Wadkins in the playoffs for his second PGA title.

He added a US Open title in 1983 at Oakmont Country Club in record fashion, going 65-67 on the weekend to overtake Watson for a one-stroke victory. In all, Nelson has won 10 times on the PGA Tour and collected 19 victories on the PGA Tour Champions. He played on three Ryder Cup teams for the USA, in 1979, 1981 and 1987, compiling a record of 9-3-1.

“Larry Nelson sacrificed himself to serve our country and then served the game of golf wonderfully,” Nicklaus said. “He came late to the game, but he made an impact quickly. Larry became a very good player, won major championships and was great at the Ryder Cup. He was always a very modest and humble man who makes a wonderful career. very quietly.”

Nelson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006 and received the PGA of America Distinguished Service Award in 2011.

Michael C. Ford