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Payne-ful Loss

Payne-ful Loss

For many in the golf world, October 25th is a difficult day. It was 22 years ago that Payne Stewart was tragically killed in a plane crash along with five others.

In our recent “analysis” of all-time great swings, Payne’s was and still is one of the prettiest.

While the memory gets more distant, it’s great reflecting on Stewart’s conflicted life and legacy:

  • played collegiate golf at SMU in Dallas
  • 1979 conference championship medalist, defeating Houston’s Fred Couples
  • turned professional in 1979, joined PGA Tour in 1982
  • won 11 career PGA tour events overall, including three majors
  • spent more than 250 weeks inside the world’s top-10, reaching a high of third
  • Played in five Ryder Cups (going 3–1–1 during these contests)
  • PGA Tour established the Payne Stewart Award in 2000
  • inducted posthumously into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001

At the time of his death, Stewart was ranked third on the all-time money list

  • $12.6M in career earnings
  • Finished seventh on money list with $2 million in earnings in his last year

Even with an inconsistent career, winning-wise, Stewart stands alone as the only American golfer born in the 1950s or ’60s to win three majors.

Adding some context, Stewart’s the same age as senior stalwart Bernard Langer

  • likely would also have had a long, lucrative career on the Champions Tour
  • sure-fire Ryder Cup captain, sparing us the spectre of “Tom Watson’s 2014 Return

For casual fans, Stewart was known for his wardrobe more so than his golf acumen

  • Started to dress more flamboyantly early in his career in 1982 (influenced by his father)
  • He was reputed to have the biggest wardrobe of all professional golfers
  • Until 1995, he wore the team colors of the geographically closest NFL franchise

Some other Payne Stewart Easter Eggs:

  • “Official” PGA Pro of the Dream Team, repeatedly taking money from Michael Jordan
  • After the 1999 Ryder Cup win, he celebrated red/white/blue pyjama pants standing on the piano smoking a cigar
  • Two years prior to Payne’s birth, his father Bill had played in the US Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, he also insisted Payne register for the US Open with his full given name, William Payne

Finally, Stewart was a musician, playing harmonica in Jake Trout and the Flounders (a group including fellow golfers Larry Rinker, Mark Lye and Peter Jacobsen).

One artifact from the crash site was Stewart's harmonica, intact, but crushed flat, and unplayable. It’s sadly fitting that the day golf stood still is also the day the music died for this larger-than-life man.