Former Denver newspaper sports columnist Dick Connor noted the dichotomy for colleague Dave Nelson, who, to put it nicely, found playing golf to be quite a challenge.
“He wound up one damn good golf writer,” Connor wrote. “But, of course, you don’t have to practice crime to write about it, or be an artist to appreciate it.”
Though he probably wouldn’t have described himself as such, Nelson was an artist. The way he wrote about golf—and basketball, and countless other sports—was a work of art, and of love.
Nelson worked as a sportswriter for the Rocky Mountain News for 26 years after graduating from Colorado Springs High School and the University of Colorado. He covered high school sports and college football, but became best known for his work on CU basketball and golf.
Nelson, like fellow prominent golf writer Ralph Moore of the Denver Post, worked golf’s major championships, but is best remembered for covering the sport in Colorado. In the 1960s and ’70s, Nelson helped the fledgling Colorado Open become one of the top state opens in the country.
Local golf received much more attention and space in the Denver newspapers in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s than it does today, and Nelson was one of the driving forces in that movement until he passed away at age 50.
“Dave stood back, observed and gave his support through carefully researched columns and news stories,” noted former Colorado Open executive director Ronn Spargur. “His objectivity had the effect of building wide-ranging support for programs and events that might otherwise have faltered.”
To show the effect Nelson had on the Colorado Open, the tournament named its low-amateur trophy in his name. In addition, the Colorado Golf Association and Colorado Women’s Golf Association several years ago renamed their media award the Dave Nelson Award for Excellence in Golf Journalism.
“He was a professional pleasure to work with,” Connor wrote in a column that accompanied the news story about Nelson’s death. “I worked with him and against him, and came to respect him as much as anybody I know. Dave Nelson knew his craft and practiced it with a self-effacing ability a lot of the younger so-called ‘aces’ ought to study.”
Nelson also served on the selection board for the Hall of Fame—another of the many ways in which he gave back to the game.