Irving Says Goodbye To The Byron Nelson After 35 Years And Shifts Focus Away From Sports | KERA News

Irving Says Goodbye To The Byron Nelson After 35 Years And Shifts Focus Away From Sports

May 17, 2017

The AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament is being held in Irving one last time. After 35 years, the event is moving from the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas to south Dallas’ new Trinity Forest Golf Club.

Earlier this week, golfers were arriving at the Four Seasons, and carts were whizzing past the tall bronze statue of Byron Nelson, the golfer who inspired the name of the tournament.

John Britton is in charge of all the golf carts used for the Byron Nelson. He lives in Irving and has been a volunteer at the event for almost 20 years. He loves where the tournament is, and doesn’t want to see it go.

“It's a big change, especially for myself,” Britton says. “I live less than two miles from the golf course. When I first started coming out here, I used to ride my bike. It just doesn't seem like it's the end. It's a shame — it really is.”

Built on top of a landfill in south Dallas, Trinity Forest, is designed to look like the natural landscape of North Texas. Tournament officials say they hope the new course attracts the top ranked players in the world.

John Britton.
Credit Gus Contreras / KERA News

Losing part of Irving's identity

But for folks like Britton, the move is just another change for his town.

“Irving lost the Cowboys years ago, and now they're losing this tournament,” he says. “I don't know what else we're going to do. It just doesn't seem like it's going away.”

Sports has been part of this city’s DNA since the Dallas Cowboys moved to Irving in 1971. The team’s headquarters moved there in 1985.

Now, the Cowboys play in Arlington and the team's headquarters are in Frisco. Both cities handed out tax dollars to help pay for the new venues.

Irving’s adjusting to a life without high-profile sports. Maura Gast, executive director of Irving’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, says sports and the Cowboys were always part of the city.  

“It kind of gave Irving an identity of its own,” Gast says. “It was still assumed to be a suburb of Dallas. It was really different when we said goodbye to Texas Stadium. That was a very surreal Sunday morning. This is going to be a surreal Sunday afternoon.”

Texas Stadium in Irving was the former home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Credit Shutterstock

Refocusing on music, public transit

Gast says the city is putting its focus on the Irving Music Factory. It’s an 8,000 seat entertainment venue that opens in August in Las Colinas. The complex will include restaurants and an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. Comedians Trevor Noah and Dave Chappelle are headlining the venue in the fall.

Gast says Irving is also working to improve public transit and attract corporate headquarters. That means fewer sports fans and more business travelers.

“We are where we are -- kind of locked in the middle of the metroplex,” she says. “If we can't make it easy for people to get in and around us, it's going to be very hard to keep our workforce here. But we’re working on filling it with other businesses because that’s what we do all the time.”

'It just doesn't seem like it's the end. It's a shame — it really is.'

For both Britton and Gast, the last day at the Byron Nelson in Irving isn’t going to be easy. Britton will be walking in one of the final groups and says it will “definitely be an emotional day.”

“I think I have to assume it’s like an empty nester,” Gast says. “We’re very proud of them, very happy for them, but it is going to suck Sunday afternoon. When that happens, I am just prepared to not wear any makeup, I’m going to be tearing up. They’re family.”  

The family isn’t moving far, just 40 minutes away. Irving’s not dwelling on the Byron Nelson moving on because they’re too busy planning for the future.