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May 11, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "Byron Nelson: a Texas Gentleman"

Where: The Golf Channel

When: Saturday, 1 and 5 p.m.

This 90-minute documentary that was first shown Tuesday and repeats Saturday has a perfect title. "A Texas Gentleman" is what Byron Nelson is. He's also a golf legend.

The producers, Jay Kossoff and Rusty Billingsly, have a pretty good track record. They also did "Arnold Palmer: Golf's Heart & Soul" and "Beacons of the Game," hosted by Jack Lemmon. Both were excellent.

They've scored again with this documentary, which is narrated by James Garner and will also be marketed as a videotape.

Nelson talks about his difficult birth at home and how he was presumed dead, but that while his father was trying to save his mother's life, his grandmother looked at the baby and blurted out, "Look, he's alive."

Nelson also almost died at 12, after being bitten by a rabid dog.

Of course Nelson's many golf accomplishments are well documented.

At the 1937 Masters, he shot a 32 on the back nine to win and was dubbed "Lord Byron" by sportswriter O.B. Keeler. He also won the 1939 U.S. Open and the 1942 Masters.

No golfer, maybe no athlete, ever had the kind of year Nelson had in 1945. All he did that year was win 11 tournaments in a row and 18 in all and finish with a scoring average of 68.33.

In 1946, Nelson won the L.A. Open--the last significant American championship to elude him--and retired to a 630-acre cattle ranch in Roanoke, Texas.

Of Nelson, Jack Whitaker may say it best: "A gentleman competitor. That's about the highest complement I can pay anybody."

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