His swing was sweet music as he hit the ball effortlessly, leading him to
three major victories on the PGA tour, and his greatest days seemed to lie
Payne Stewart's refreshing attitude towards life, family and the game he
loved was reflected by each seemingly agonizing putt and crucial chip. He
always emerged with a smile on his face. The smiles were echoed by millions
of golf fans alike who seemed to think of Payne as a regular guy.
However, the smiles turned to tears Monday as a plane on which he was a
passenger crashed into a South Dakota field after flying uncontrolled for
Growing up in a house where golf was adored, a man the same age as my
father became a hero to me throughout my youth. With his knickers and odd
hats, Payne was a gem in a floundering game throughout the late '80s and
As one of my father's favorite golfers, he became my role model. I tried,
to no avail, to model my golf swing after him as I chipped balls toward
trees in my front yard.
In today's golf world, full of beefy contracts and endorsements of pouting
superstars who whine at obligations to represent their country in a highly
revered Ryder Cup tournament, Stewart was a sharp contrast to what the game
His victory at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst on Father's Day was not only
against the odds-- one-putting the final three holes-- but also against
A man almost half his age, Phil Mickelson, was comfortably leading the
tournament and balancing the tedious spotlight of every shot with his
wife's pregnancy hundreds of miles away, vowing to forfeit the tournament
at the first signs of her going into labor.
However, as Stewart stole the spotlight, draining an improbable 15-foot
putt to win the tournament on the eighteenth hole, Stewart's first move was
not to his trophy, but to his opponent, grabbing Mickelson and reminding
him that this was only a tournament, he was about to become a father.
A father of two himself, Stewart reminded his fans of what a role model
should be. He was never as flashy as David Duval and didn't win as many
tournaments as Tiger Woods, but he was a gentleman, and a gentle giant of
the sports world.
Stewart won 11 tour events and was a member of five Ryder Cup teams, but
his accomplishments are far greater than that. He was a husband, a father,
a competitor and a model athlete.
In the minds of the fans who watched his almost-magical career, he will
always be dearly missed, and remembered for more than a symbol of
consistency, but a symbol of the game of golf as well.
Golf world loses great player
Published: Wed Oct 27, 1999 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 02:01 p.m.