Bill Nichols

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Portion of Byron Nelson's Fairway Ranch sold to housing developer

Sixty-five years after Byron Nelson traded in his golf clubs for cattle prods, a large portion of the legendary golfer’s Fairway Ranch in Roanoke is being turned into a master plan community.

Wilbow Corporation is purchasing 277 acres of Nelson’s property off State Highway 114, and another 200 acres have been set aside for a public park and future land deal, said Jon Bradley, Nelson’s longtime friend and business manager. Wilbow officials could not be reached for comment.

The community will feature single family homes, parks, open space reserves, an elementary school, neighborhood retail, and an office campus, Bradley said.

The sale was made, per Nelson’s will, to fund the Byron Nelson Foundation. His widow, Peggy, will continue to reside on an 82-acre homestead there.

``This is just another example of the kind of person Byron was,’’ said Bradley, a Weaver LLP partner. ``The long-term plan for the ranch was that someday much of the property would be sold and the proceeds used to help the church and to see other non-profit organizations expand their services to children and families.’’

The HP Byron Nelson Championship is the most financially successful charity event on the PGA Tour. About $120 million has been raised for the Salesmanship Club of Dallas’ Youth and Family Centers.

Nelson’s primary motivation as a pro golfer was to earn enough money to buy a ranch. He finished his relatively short playing career with 52 PGA Tour victories, including a record 11 straight in 1945.

In August 1946 he purchased 630 acres in Roanoke, including a three-bedroom home built in 1938 and three barns. He eventually assembled 752 acres on which cattle still graze.

Nelson lived at Fairway Ranch exactly sixty years and one month. He was 94 when he died on Sept. 26, 2006.

State Hwy. 114 Business through Roanoke is named Byron Nelson Boulevard, and the street where he lived was renamed Eleven Straight Lane. Byron Nelson High School in nearby Trophy Club opened in 2009.

``It’s nice to know that another part of Byron’s dream for the ranch is still going on,’’ Peggy said. ``He absolutely loved Fairway Ranch, and had a wonderful vision for how that long-ago investment could be used to bless thousands of people who might never know his name or what he did in golf.’’

About 200 acres of Fairway Ranch were sold to Hillwood Commercial in 1998 for the expansion of the Alliance Business Park.

Wilbow’s 227 acres are spread across rolling hills with 110 feet in elevation change. Model homes will probably be ready in late 2012, Bradley said.

Wilbow Corporation, the U.S. division of the Wilbow Group Pty. Ltd of Melbourne, Australia, is involved in 10 residential lot developments in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas.


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