Two-time U.S. Open champion dies in plane crash
Monday, October 25th 1999, 12:00 am
News On 6
Golf great Payne Stewart was known for his knickers and tam-o'-shanter cap, a nod to golfing's old traditions, but also for
his indomitable spirit.
"He had a real reverence for the game," fellow pro Peter Jacobsen said after Stewart's plane crashed Monday in South Dakota,
killing all five aboard.
"As a golfer, his record speaks for itself," he said. "He was loved by many people."
Stewart, 42, won his second U.S. Open in June and also this year played in his first Ryder Cup since 1993, helping the United States
in a dramatic win last month over Europe. In all, he won 18 tournaments, including three majors.
He was on his way to Texas, where the Tour Championship is being played this week in Houston.
"It is difficult to express our sense of shock and sadness over the death of Payne Stewart," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem
Said Tiger Woods: "It is shocking. It's a tragedy. I can't even comprehend the scope of it. None of us can right now. There is an
enormous void and emptiness I feel right now."
His last tournament victory was his finest moment. In June, Stewart made a 15-foot par putt on the final hole at Pinehurst No.
2 in North Carolina to win the U.S. Open by one stroke over Phil Mickelson. It was the longest putt to ever decide a U.S. Open on
the 72nd hole its 99-year history.
When the putt fell, he thrust his arm into the air and let out a roar.
"All I wanted to do was give myself a chance," Stewart said, choking back tears. "I never gave up. I got the job done."
It was Stewart's third major championship in a career that began in 1980, and put a stamp on what had been a revival late in his career. He missed the cut last week in the Disney Classic, but reflected on his career the day before the tournament began.
"There were times when ... I played very poorly and I wasn't having fun playing golf, and I didn't want to continue," he said.
"I had a wakeup call to the fact that this is what I'm good at, and I'm still good at it."
He won his first major championship in 1989, taking the PGA championship at Kemper Lakes outside Chicago, beating Mike Reid by
a stroke. Two years later, he won the U.S. Open at Hazeltine in Minnesota after an 18-hole playoff with Scott Simpson.
But Stewart then went a major slump, going eight years with only one victory and becoming surlier with galleries and with the media the longer it went on.
He nearly won the U.S. Open last year, taking a four-stroke lead into the final round at before losing by one stroke to Lee Janzen.
But the transformation of Stewart was already under way.
The U.S. Open win this year secured Stewart a spot on his first Ryder Cup team in six years. He embodied the passion of the Ryder
Cup, and boldly suggested that one reason the United States had not won since 1993 was that he was not on the team.
He won only a half-point at the Country Club in Boston last month, but his presence was considered a motivating factor for the
Americans, who staged the greatest comeback in history to win back the Cup.
Along with 11 career victories on the PGA Tour, Stewart also won seven times around the world. His career winnings were $11.7
Part of his turnaround was a newfound faith, drawn to church through his children, 13-year-old Chelsea and 10-year-old Aaron.
"I'm a lot older and I'm a lot wiser. I'm more mature," he said earlier this year. "I'm not going to blink and miss my family growing up. When I'm out at the golf course, I'm going to prepare myself to be the best I can. And when I'm home, I'm going to be a father."
He also said his faith in God had blossomed. "I'm so much more at peace with myself than I've ever been in my life," Stewart said after winning the Open. "Where I was with my faith last year and where I am now is leaps and bounds."