Larry Nelson, Hall of Fame Golfer

3-time major championship winner Larry Nelson plays on the PGA Tour in 1993.
J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

Larry Nelson got a late start on the PGA Tour, but he still managed to win three majors in the 1980s and earn a place in the Hall of Fame.

Career Profile

Date of birth: September 10, 1947
Place of birth: Fort Payne, Alabama

Tour Victories:

  • PGA Tour: 10
  • Champions Tour: 19

Major Championships:

  • U.S. Open: 1983
  • PGA Championship: 1981, 1987

Awards and Honors:

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1979, 1981, 1987
  • Champions Tour money leader, 2000
  • Champions Tour Player of the Year, 2000

Quote, Unquote:

  • Larry Nelson, on the development of his golf game: "I fell in love with (golf) and got better every day. I was always put in a situation where everyone was better than I was. My motivation was getting better and feeding my family."


  • Larry Nelson is the only golfer to post a 5-0 record in a single Ryder Cup where five matches is the maximum, doing so in 1979. He paired with Lanny Wadkins to win four team matches, then defeated Seve Ballesteros in singles.
  • Nelson was one of four golfers to win at least three majors during the 1980s (the others were Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Ballesteros).

Larry Nelson Biography

He went to war, and when he came home, he found peace on the golf course. Well, actually, he found a great living - but that's the story of Larry Nelson's unusual path to golf.

Nelson was a baseball player as a youth. He didn't even pick up golf until he was 21, after returning home from service in the Vietnam War. He started working at Pine Tree Country Club in Kennesaw, Ga., and teaching himself golf by reading Ben Hogan's Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.

Nelson broke 100 the very first time he played a round of golf, and within nine months he broke 70. The Pine Tree CC members began encouraging him to try one of golf's mini-tours.

Just a couple years later, in 1973, Nelson made it through Q-School on his first attempt and was on the PGA Tour at age 27.

His first two victories came in 1979 and he finished second on the money list that year. He also made the first of three Ryder Cup appearances for the U.S., going 5-0. Nelson played twice more in the Ryder Cup with a career record of 9-3-1. Tom Watson once said that if he had to choose one American golfer to play one must-win Ryder Cup match, his choice would be Nelson.

Nelson won the 1981 PGA Championship, then got his second major at the 1983 U.S. Open by shooting 132 over the final two rounds. In 1987, he again won the PGA Championship, defeating Lanny Wadkins in a playoff.

Nelson's last win on the PGA Tour was in 1988. He debuted on the Champions Tour in 2000 and led that tour in victories that year, as well as in 2001.

Nelson was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2006.