Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography

Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography


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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805424799
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/01/2001
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About 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).

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


This could be it, I thought, as I leaned forward in my chair, my eyes glued to the television screen, anxiously watching and waiting, hanging on every word describing Payne's situation. This could be the turning point, the critical shot of the 1999 U.S. Open. Payne's caddy handed him his putter as he approached the 16th green at Pinehurst Number 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 Sunday, Father's Day weekend. Open to both professional players and any amateurs who can survive the sieve of sectional qualifying rounds conducted in various locations across the nation, the U.S. Open is truly America's tournament. Nearly 7,000 golfers vie for a spot in the prestigious field each year, hoping to capture the prized silver trophy. Of that number, fewer than one hundred sixty men actually get 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, players privately and publicly mumble that the Open is designed to humiliate them, but former United States Golf Association president, Sandy Tatum, said just the opposite, that the Open is "designed to identify the best golfers in the world." Indeed, Ben Crenshaw, 1999 Ryder Cup captain, described the U.S. Open as the "hardest test in golf."

For the 1999 U.S. Open, the famed Pinehurst No. 2 golf course, in Pinehurst, North Carolina, was set up by USGA officials to play as a par 70, over 7,175 yards. The USGA decided that two of Pinehurst's par 5 holes, number 8 and the hazard-strewn number 16, would be played as long par 4s, purposely making an already testy course even tougher. The chilly, damp weather added yet another dimension of difficulty to Pinehurst's treacherous greens.

Having led the 1999 U.S. Open after the second and third rounds, Payne's position at the top of the leaderboard was being ferociously challenged. He was struggling to stay ahead of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and David Duval on the final day of the tournament. Payne had started the day with a one-shot lead over Phil Mickelson, and had played well, riding a two shot-lead going into the ninth hole. But then the wheels started to come off. Between holes 9 and 12, Payne stumbled and missed four greens in a row, and made two straight bogeys at 10 and 11, allowing Phil Mickelson to snatch the lead from him. Fighting back, at 13, Payne sank his putt for birdie, and pulled even with Phil again.

Meanwhile Tiger Woods, playing in the group ahead of Phil and Payne, sank a difficult putt at 14 to draw within two strokes. The leaderboard was getting crowded at the top. On 16, Tiger drained another sensational putt, drawing ever nearer at even par, only one stroke behind. Making matters worse, Payne narrowly missed his putt on 15 for par. Payne shut his eyes as though praying, while he tried to shake off the putt that had come so close.

Duval and Singh had dropped off, but Tiger lurked just below the top names on the leaderboard, and Payne now trailed Phil Mickelson by one stroke as they approached the 16th green. Phil had played flawlessly all day long, sinking difficult putts, hitting incredible shots, and making virtually no mental mistakes. He had not bogied a single hole throughout the round.

This Father's Day was exceptionally special to Phil, since back home in Scottsdale, Arizona, his wife, Amy, was due to deliver their first child. Phil knew that at any moment, he might receive a phone call, informing him that Amy was on her way to the hospital. Phil had announced in advance that given a choice between contending in the Open and being at home for the birth of their baby, he'd walk away from Pinehurst to be with Amy. It was a decision that Payne understood and heartily endorsed.

But the distractions of imminent fatherhood did nothing to diminish Phil Mickelson'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, Mickelson mused, "It could be a cool story for my daughter to read about when she got older."

The weather had been unseasonably cool and wet for June in North Carolina, and although the rain held off, by late Sunday afternoon, a fine mist seemed to permeate the air. With or without the added elements of inclement weather, the par-4, 16th was treacherous, a hole that only three players had managed to hit in regulation-two strokes less than par--during the final round at Pinehurst. It looked as though sixteen might be Payne's Waterloo, as well. He missed the green on his approach shot, and then making matters even worse, he hit a poor chip, leaving himself a monstrous 25-foot putt for par.

Payne chewed his gum pensively as he lined up the putt. Concentration creased his brow, yet he seemed amazingly calm and composed. He leaned over, went through his normal pre-putt routine, took a smooth, even pendulum stroke and rolled in the putt as though it were a three-footer! As the crowd roared its approval, Payne nonchalantly raised his right arm and pointed his index finger skyward in a brief acknowledgement, as though he was 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, 'Okay, 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."

Payne's sinking that extremely difficult putt may have shaken Phil's confidence. He missed a tough 8-footer for par, and they were suddenly tied up again. Up ahead, on the 17th green, Tiger Woods' putt spun around the left side of the cup and lipped out. Tiger would have to birdie the last hole to give himself a chance to win.

At 17, a 191 yard, par-3, both Phil and Payne nearly knocked the flag over, sticking their tee shots close enough to possibly make birdie. Phil had a 6-footer, and Payne's putt was about four feet. As Payne approached the green, the chimes at the nearby Pinehurst chapel began to play. NBC-TV golf commentator, Johnny Miller, noticed the sound and exclaimed, "They're playing 'Angels We Have Heard on High!'" Others thought the song they heard was "Onward Christian Soldiers." Whatever the tune, the chimes must have struck a soothing chord with Payne. Phil missed his birdie putt, but Payne sank his, pushing him into a one-stroke lead. As the television commentators reviewed the action on the 17th, a male voice in the broadcast booth could be heard on the air, ever-so-faintly saying, "Payne's gonna win."

About the same time, in the group ahead on the 18th green, Tiger Woods lined up his putt, a 30-footer that could put him back at even par, and possibly keep him in contention. Tiger stroked the putt as purely as any shot all day. The ball beelined across the green, toward the hole, but then rolled past, narrowly missing by inches. Tiger's torso doubled over as he watched the ball dribble to a stop, possibly dashing his hopes of being included in any post-tournament trophy ceremonies. He shut his eyes and for a few moments, seemed frozen in time, his face grimacing with disappointment. So close, yet so far away.

With Tiger now in at 1-over par, and Payne and Phil striding to the 18th tee box, I reluctantly pulled myself away from the television screen in our rented house where I had been watching every shot. I hurried toward the car. Win or lose, I wanted to be there when Payne finished. I ripped out of the driveway, and roared toward the golf course, trying to locate a radio station that might be carrying the tournament as I drove. Fortunately, traffic was minimal as I raced into the players' parking area near the clubhouse, and ran to the 18th green.

Thousands of people had crowded around the 18th fairway and green to watch the national championship unfold. 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 18th green.

In the meantime, Payne had teed off on 18. He connected with the shot squarely, and although he couldn't see where the ball landed, he thought he had hit it well enough to be safe. But Payne was wrong. His drive hit the first cut of deep rough, and instead of squirting through and landing in perfect position on the fairway, as so many other tee shots that had landed in that spot 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. When Payne trekked down the fairway and found his ball tucked in the rough, he was surprised and a bit disappointed, although, to him, it was not as bad a lie as it could have been. Payne loved to hit the tough shots, so this one challenged him.

With Phil's drive in the heart of the fairway, and Payne's in the thick rough, his one-stroke lead was in jeopardy. He was 178 yards out, and to him 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 United States Open, you take your medicine, lay up, and try to make your par with your short game. 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 Championship.

Payne took his medicine, as he was fond of saying. He hit a 9-iron close, landing well short of the bunker yet within striking distance of the green. It cost him a stroke, but it gave him a chance-what he knew might well be his last chance to win the U.S. Open.

"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 into 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 go for it; he launched his second shot onto the green, to 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 shot. "Where's Payne?" I asked a USGA official who was standing nearby. He eyed me curiously, as though he recognized me, but I didn't give him any further hints concerning my identity.

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

My heart sank. If the round ended in a tie, that would mean an 18-hole playoff on Monday. Oh, no! I thought. Not another playoff! Payne's track record of three wins and two losses in playoffs was lackluster at best.

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. Both Payne and I had long-since learned that there were more important things in life than winning. I did, however, pray, "Help him, Lord, to make the best effort he can, and to bring glory to you."

Payne and his caddie, Mike Hicks, a 38-year-old, native of North Carolina, surveyed the situation and talked over his next shot. Mike had caddied for Payne off and on for more than eleven years, and although 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 77 yards to the green--and 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 makeable putt, the tournament belonged to Phil Mickelson.

Payne hit a carefully placed wedge shot onto the green, leaving himself a nasty15-foot putt, makeable, 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, since that is exactly what had happened to him on the 18th green at Olympic Club in San Francisco in the U.S. Open just one year previously.

Table of Contents

1The Greatest Open Ever1
2An Unforgettable Finish9
3Growing Up in Springfield27
4Degrees of Education43
5Love at First Sight59
6Starting Out on the PGA Tour75
7All the Right Moves85
8A Fresh Start95
9What It's All About105
10A Turning Point113
11A Major Victory121
12Ups and Downs129
13Change Is Good137
14A Career Milestone149
15Colors of Payne165
16The Testy Years183
17Working Out the Kinks193
18Awakening the Giant203
19Lights, Camera, Action217
20I'll Be Back229
21A New Foundation241
22Mr. No-Name249
24An Overcoming Heart267
25Giving Something Back277
26My Soul Mate Forever287
27A Date in Heaven301

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Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
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Forthright, practical and highly informative while not being preachy, loving and beautifully composed and illustrated... a joy to read!
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