Remembering Payne Stewart's Legacy

By Matthew Castonguay
Thursday January 30th, 2014 6:12 pm EST

Getty Images

In October 1999, the game of golf lost not only one of its greatest competitors, but arguably its greatest ambassador when Payne Stewart tragically passed away in a plane crash in South Dakota.  This year's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am marks the 15th anniversary of his final regular tour win. He also would have turned 57 this week.

He was style before Ian Poulter. He was sportsmanship after Jack Nicklaus. There was very little that Stewart didn’t do for the game of golf. He was a three-time major champion who won 11 times on the PGA Tour, and a key part of two of the most memorable Ryder Cup victories for the Americans (Kiawah 1991 and Brookline 1999). But his legacy is more about the person he was off the course rather than the player he was on it.

article3

Above all else, Payne Stewart was the life of the party. Tales of nights on the town, practical jokes, drinking champagne from the U.S. Open trophy, impromptu stints tending bar, and even heckling other star athletes abound when talking about the two-time U.S Open champion. Paul Azinger once said of his friend, "If golf is an art, Payne Stewart was the color."

One of Payne’s final moments of glory came at Pinehurst No. 2, the same venue that will host this year’s U.S. Open. Stewart battled Phil Mickelson, whose wife Amy was expecting their first child at any moment, tooth and nail down the stretch on Sunday. The tournament culminated with Stewart holing a 15-foot snake of a putt to best Mickelson by one.

In one of the most iconic photos and moments in recent memory, Stewart grabbed Mickelson by the face with both hands and reminded him that what was coming was far greater than what he lost that day. As he usually did, Stewart found precisely the right words for Mickelson: “You're going to be a father!"

article2

Later that year at the Ryder Cup, Stewart famously conceded a putt to his opponent Colin Montgomerie. Though the concession gave Monty a 1-up win against Stewart, it had no effect on the team outcome.

Good friend and Ryder Cup teammate Tom Lehman said of Stewart and the gesture, “In the midst of all that excitement and to his own personal detriment, he was the perfect sportsman and gentleman and just could not do anything that would be seen as disrespectful of his opponent.”

Stewart's passion for and dedication to the game, and upholding its ideals through his actions and appearance, have since been immortalized by the PGA Tour’s honor that carries his name. The Payne Stewart Award has been handed out each year since 2000 to the player who exemplified all of the qualities Stewart did, and it is viewed by players as one of the game's highest honors.

article1

Happy 57th birthday to “The Color.”

Related Link: Photos - Remembering Payne Stewart

Other Hot Links:
- Video: TaylorMade Releases Ad Featuring Paulina Gretzky
- $2.5 Million For Hole-In-One? Only in Dubai
- Bubba Watson Unveils Bulletproof Truck
- Tiger Woods Likes Peyton Manning, Broncos in Super Bowl
- Video: Kelley James Drops Epic Golf Freestyle

Bleacher Report

More in Players

USGA Re-Broadcasting 1962 U.S. Open Documentary On Thanksgiving

USGA Re-Broadcasting 1962 U.S. Open Documentary On Thanksgiving

Golf Pioneer Charlie Sifford Receives Highest Presidential Honor

Golf Pioneer Charlie Sifford Receives Highest Presidential Honor

Tiger Woods Announces Chris Como As New Swing Coach

Tiger Woods Announces Chris Como As New Swing Coach

Europe Grooming Future American Stars Brooks Koepka, Peter Uihlein

Europe Grooming Future American Stars Brooks Koepka, Peter Uihlein

Ian Poulter Rants On Twitter About His Putting, Even After Lesson

Ian Poulter Rants On Twitter About His Putting, Even After Lesson

Lindsey Vonn Has Tiger's Back, Shares Anger Over Fake Q&A

Lindsey Vonn Has Tiger's Back, Shares Anger Over Fake Q&A

McIlroy, Rose, Stenson Try To 1-Up Each Other In Dubai

McIlroy, Rose, Stenson Try To 1-Up Each Other In Dubai

Dustin Johnson Eyes February Return At Torrey Pines

Dustin Johnson Eyes February Return At Torrey Pines

Golf World Congratulates Christina Kim On Victory

Golf World Congratulates Christina Kim On Victory

5 Things To Know About Brooks Koepka

5 Things To Know About Brooks Koepka