USGA INSIDER HISTORY
USGA Unearths Historic Byron Nelson Scorecard March 10, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By Hilary Cronheim, USGA

A USGA historian discovered a Byron Nelson scorecard from the 1939 U.S. Open. (USGA Museum)

The USGA Museum and Library houses the nation’s largest and most significant collection of golf artifacts, and features several interactive, multimedia exhibits that help bring golf history to life.  

Museum curators painstakingly catalogue and care for more than 145,000 objects to ensure the best experience for Museum visitors, which includes the American Triumvirate exhibit that honors Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.

The Library archives more than 54,000 scorecards from USGA championships contested from 1913 to the present. It is one of the richest parts of our collection and continues to grow each year. During a recent inventory of the scorecard collection, a USGA historian made a startling discovery when she unearthed nine scorecards from Nelson's play during the 1939 U.S. Open. 

The championship was conducted at Philadelphia Country Club and is perhaps best remembered for Snead’s triple-bogey 8 on the 72nd hole that cost him a chance to win. That set the stage for the first three-way playoff since 1913, featuring Nelson, Denny Shute and Craig Wood.

Nelson and Wood carded 68s in the playoff to force a second 18-hole playoff, while Shute was eliminated after a 76. In the second playoff, Nelson birdied the third hole and then holed out a 1-iron from 215 yards for eagle on the fourth to take a five-stroke lead. Wood was never able to pull closer than three, losing by that margin, 70-73.

The Museum found four official cards from the championship proper and five from the playoffs annotated by a scorer following Nelson, Shute and Wood. These scorecards add to the already rich ensemble of museum artifacts that we have from this championship, including the monogrammed Macgregor ball and famed 1-iron that earned Nelson his only U.S. Open victory.

The scorecards are now on display in the Museum’s recent acquisitions case, and available for the public to enjoy during regular Museum hours.

Hilary Cronheim is special collections librarian for the USGA.