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Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography

Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography

5.0 5
by Tracey Stewart, Ken Abraham, Mike Hicks

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When his life came to a sudden and tragic end on October 25, 1999, Payne Stewart was at the top of his game on every level. In June of 1999, he enjoyed the signature triumph of his career and solidified himself as one of the exemplary personalities in his profession with a victory at the U.S. Open and a place on the coveted winning U.S. Ryder Cup team. However


When his life came to a sudden and tragic end on October 25, 1999, Payne Stewart was at the top of his game on every level. In June of 1999, he enjoyed the signature triumph of his career and solidified himself as one of the exemplary personalities in his profession with a victory at the U.S. Open and a place on the coveted winning U.S. Ryder Cup team. However satisfying his professional accomplishments were, it was his personal triumphs that made him stand out. Those closest to Stewart said his family and faith were what mattered most to him. At his funeral, his wife Tracey described him as a devoted husband and father and a devout Christian. She said, "After 18 years of marriage, he was still the most beautiful man I had ever seen, because of what he was on the inside.” The only authorized biography of Payne Stewart, this book was a 'New York Times' bestseller for 13 consecutive weeks.

Editorial Reviews

In October 1999, much-revered golfer Payne Stewart died in a tragic plane accident. This biography, penned by his wife of 18 years, presents the accomplishments of a world-class linksman, U.S. Ryder Cup captain, and sweet man. A tribute to a golfer, the sport he loved, and the faith that sustained him.

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B&H Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Greatest
Open Ever

* * *

This could be it. I leaned forward in my chair, eyes glued to my husband's image on the television screen, anxiously watching and waiting, hanging on the commentators' every word. This could be the critical shot of the 1999 U.S. Open. Payne's caddy, Mike Hicks, handed him his putter as he approached the sixteenth green at Pinehurst No. 2.

    The U.S. Open is held each year at one of the most challenging golf courses in America. The mid-June tournament spans a four-day period, beginning on Thursday and ending on Father's Day. Open to both professional golfers and any amateurs who can survive the sieve of sectional qualifying rounds conducted at various locations across the nation, the U.S. Open is truly America's tournament. Nearly seven thousand golfers vie for a spot in the prestigious field each year, hoping to capture the prized silver trophy. Of that number, fewer than 160 men earn the right to tee it up in the Open.

    One of the most difficult golf tournaments in the world, separating the good golfer from the truly great, the U.S. Open is "designed to identify the best golfer in the world," according to former United States Golf Association president Sandy Tatum. The players, however, don't always see it that way. Over the years, several have been heard mumbling, both privately and publicly, that the Open is designed more to humiliate them. Indeed, Ben Crenshaw, 1999 Ryder Cup captain, describes the U.S. Open as the "hardest test in golf."

    Forthe 1999 Open, North Carolina's famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course was configured by the USGA to play as a 7,175-yard par 70. Adding difficulty to an already tough course, USGA officials decided that two of Pinehurst's par-5 holes, number 8 and the hazard-strewn number 16, would be played as long par 4s. The chilly, damp weather that settled over North Carolina that weekend added yet another dimension of difficulty to Pinehurst's treacherous greens.

    Payne had taken the lead during Friday's second round, and at the end of play on Saturday, still clung to a one-shot advantage over Phil Mickelson. But as Sunday's final round commenced, Payne's position at the top of the leaderboard was jeopardized as Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and David Duval mounted separate charges. Payne started the day playing well and rode a two-shot lead going into the ninth hole. As the round progressed, Duval dropped off, but Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh still lurked just below the top names on the leaderboard. Then, Payne began to struggle. Between holes 9 and 12, Payne missed four greens in a row, settling for bogeys at 10 and 12, which allowed Phil Mickelson to snatch the lead. Fighting back at the thirteenth, Payne sank his putt for birdie, pulling even with Mickelson again.

    Meanwhile, Tiger Woods, playing in the group ahead of Payne and Phil, sank a difficult putt at 14 to draw within two strokes. The leaderboard was getting crowded at the top. On 16, Woods drained another sensational putt, dropping him to even par, only one stroke behind the leaders. Making matters worse, Payne narrowly missed his putt for par on 15 and now trailed Phil Mickelson by one stroke as they approached the sixteenth hole. Payne shut his eyes, shaking off the wayward putt and gathering himself for the final push to the finish.

    Mickelson had played flawlessly all day long, sinking difficult putts, hitting incredible shots, and making virtually no mental mistakes. He had not bogeyed a single hole throughout the round. His steady play was especially remarkable considering that on this Father's Day, back home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his wife was due to deliver their first child. Phil knew that at any moment he might receive a phone call telling him that Amy was on her way to the hospital. Given a choice between contending in the Open and being at home for the birth of their baby, Phil had announced in advance that he'd walk away from Pinehurst to be with Amy. It was a decision Payne understood and heartily endorsed.

    But the distractions of imminent fatherhood did nothing to diminish Phil's competitive edge. If anything, it inspired him all the more! Thinking about what it might mean to win the U.S. Open on Father's Day, he had mused, "It could be a cool story for my daughter to read about when she gets older."

    The weather remained unseasonably cool and wet for June in North Carolina; and though the rain held off, by late Sunday afternoon a fine mist permeated the air. No matter what the weather, the par-4 sixteenth at Pinehurst was treacherous, a hole that only three players had managed to hit in regulation during Sunday's final round. It looked as though 16 might be Payne's waterloo as well. He missed the green on his approach and then made matters even worse by hitting a poor chip shot, leaving himself a monstrous 25-foot putt for par.

    Payne chewed his gum pensively as he strode onto the green. Concentration creased his brow, yet he seemed amazingly calm and composed. He leaned over, went through his normal pre-putt routine, then took a smooth, even, pendulum stroke and rolled the putt in as though it were a 3-footer! As the crowd roared its approval, Payne nonchalantly raised his right arm and pointed his index finger skyward in a brief acknowledgment, as though saying, "Thank you very much, but I still have a lot of work to do."

    Concerning his performance on 16, Payne later said, "I was kind of disappointed in my chip shot. It was obviously horrible. But then I got myself right back into it and said, `OK, you gotta stand up here, read the line, and make the putt.' And I did it. It gave me a lot of belief that I still had a chance to win the golf tournament."

    When Payne sank that extremely difficult putt, it notched up the pressure on Phil Mickelson, who proceeded to miss a tough 8-footer for par. Suddenly, the two were tied again. Up ahead on the seventeenth green, Tiger Woods's putt spun around the left side of the cup and lipped out. He would have to birdie the last hole to have a chance to win.

    At 17, a 191-yard par 3, both Payne and Phil nearly knocked the flag over, sticking their tee shots close enough possibly to make birdie. Payne's ball was about four feet from the cup, and Phil had a 6-footer. Phil missed his putt and had to settle for par. Before Payne lined up his putt on 17, a male voice in the broadcast booth could be heard on the air, saying ever-so-faintly, "Payne's gonna win." Payne made his 4-foot birdie putt and had a one-stroke lead.

    After Payne made his birdie, I reluctantly pulled myself away from the television screen in our rented house where I had been watching every shot. I hurried outside to the car. Win or lose, I wanted to be there when Payne finished. Ripping out of the driveway, I roared toward the golf course, trying to locate a radio station that might be carrying the tournament. Fortunately, traffic was light, and I soon raced into the players' parking area near the clubhouse and ran to the eighteenth green.

    Thousands of spectators lined the fairways and crowded around the eighteenth green to watch the national championship come to a close. People were sitting on the clubhouse roof; several were perched precariously in nearby trees; everyone strained for any advantage to their view. I quickly made my way out toward the green.

    About the same time, in the group up ahead on the eighteenth green, Tiger Woods lined up his putt, a 30-footer that could put him back at even par and possibly keep him in contention. Woods stroked the putt as purely as he had any shot all day. The ball bee-lined across the green toward the hole but then rolled past, missing the cup by inches. Tiger doubled over in agony as he watched the ball dribble to a stop, possibly dashing his hopes of a championship. He shut his eyes and for a few moments seemed frozen in time, his face grimacing with disappointment. So close, yet so far away.

    In the meantime, Payne had teed off on 18. He connected with the shot squarely and thought he had hit it well enough to be safe, though he couldn't see where the ball had landed. He was wrong. His drive had hit the first cut of deep rough, and instead of squirting through and landing in perfect position on the fairway, as so many similar tee shots had done that day, Payne's shot got hung up in the thick, wet grass. The ball bounced first to the left and then jogged back to the right, diving straight into the high grass just six inches off the fairway, in horrible position. After Payne hit his tee shot on 18, the chimes at the nearby Pinehurst chapel began to play. NBC-TV golf analyst Mark Rolfing noticed the sound and exclaimed, "They're playing Angels We Have Heard on High!'" The chimes must have struck a soothing chord with Payne.

    When Payne trekked down the fairway and found his ball tucked in the rough, he was surprised and a bit disappointed. But Payne loved to hit the tough shots, and this one challenged him.

    When Phil's drive landed in the heart of the fairway, Payne's one-stroke lead was once again in jeopardy. As he considered his predicament—178 yards out and in the thick rough—to Payne there was only one option. All week long he had stuck to his game plan whenever he was in trouble. He had learned from experience that when you're in trouble at the U.S. Open, you lay up and try to make par with your short game. He called this "taking your medicine," and he wasn't about to change the game plan that had helped him to lead after more rounds than anyone in the history of the U.S. Open.

    Payne took his medicine and hit a 9-iron, landing well short of the bunker. It cost him a stroke, but it gave him a chance what he knew might well be his last chance—to win the tournament.

    "I hit the ball well all week," Payne said later, "and my wedge game had been particularly sharp. So when I drove it in the rough, I took my medicine and got into position to hit a wedge onto the green. Even though I was in the rough, I felt confident I could save par."

    From the center of the fairway, Phil Mickelson saw an opportunity. With Payne forced to lay up, Phil felt free to attack the green. He launched an aggressive second shot, which rolled to a stop within twenty feet of the pin.

    By now, I had made my way through the clubhouse and outside to an area restricted to players, family, USGA officials, and media; but I was still stuck in a crowd, three or four people deep, behind several taller spectators. I stood on my tiptoes, stretching to see Payne's next shot. "Where's Payne?" I asked a USGA official who was standing nearby. He eyed me curiously, as though he might recognize me, but I didn't give him any further hint concerning my identity.

    "He's in the fairway," the official replied matter-of-factly. "He had to lay up."

    My heart sank. If the round ended in a tie, that would mean an eighteen-hole play-off on Monday. Oh, no! I thought. Not another play-off! Payne's track record in play-offs was a lackluster three wins and six losses.

    I whispered a quick prayer, "Lord, please be with him and help him to be the best he can be." I didn't pray for Payne to win because he and I had long since learned that there were more important things in life than winning golf tournaments. I did, however, pray, "Help him, Lord, to make the best effort he can and to bring glory to you."

    Payne and his caddy, Mike Hicks, surveyed the situation and talked over the next shot. Mike, a thirty-eight-year-old native of North Carolina, had caddied for Payne off and on for more than eleven years; and even though Payne had tremendous confidence in Mike's knowledge of the golf course and in his own ability, he still wasn't satisfied. He paced off the full distance—about seventy-seven yards to the green—and then back, looking over the approach, the formidable bunker in front of the green, and the pin placement. Payne knew he had only one shot. He could not afford to misjudge the distance, the speed of the green, or anything else. If he didn't get the ball close enough to leave himself with a makable putt, the tournament would be up for grabs again.

    Lining up over his ball, Payne hit a carefully placed wedge shot onto the green, leaving himself a nasty 15-foot putt for par. It was makable, but by no means a sure thing, especially under these conditions, at the end of the tournament, when one spike mark could send the ball veering off course. Payne knew that possibility only too well because that is exactly what had happened to him on the eighteenth green at the previous year's U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.

Meet the Author

Ken Abraham is a New York Times best-selling author who has cowritten
books with Joel Osteen (Your Best Life Now), Chuck Norris (Against
All Odds
), Lisa Beamer (LetÕs Roll!), and Tracey Stewart (Payne Stewart: The
Authorized Biography

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Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Forthright, practical and highly informative while not being preachy, loving and beautifully composed and illustrated... a joy to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. I am a golfer and recieved it as a gift from a friend. After reading the first 5 pages I couldn't put it down. It told about all of his high points and low. This book is both sad and funny. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best book i've ever read. It ranks with the rest of the books written after his death, i've read them all. This book will no doubt bring tears to your eyes. It goes through this wonderful mans life from start to the day he went home to God. I would reccomend this book to any one who had a place for Payne in their heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a touchimg tribute, and a wonderful insight of one of golf's outstanding players.Who knew him best than the woman that was with him from the begining of his career,his wife Tracey Stewart.She gives a rare insight to one of golf's greatest charactors,as well as the man behind the knickers,and the tam-o'shanter cap.Payne was a man who loved life to the fullest.He was real, no pretense about him. He loved to laugh and he always made those aroung him feel important.He knew he would not have gotten to where he was if it were not for the people in his life. He learned from his mistakes and became a greater man for it.Tracey takes you into the world of a golfer's life.The busy schedules, the travel the victories,and the defeats.The tension and the pressure of the tours,but most of all we learn from payne, what is most important in life.Payne loved his wife and children.He loved those around him. His faith in GOD and country were real. Payne was a humble man, a real man. I would have given anything to have known him or to have a friend like him. He put life into perspective, as should we all