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William Payne Stewart (January 30, 1957 – October 25, 1999) was an Americanmarker professional golfer who won three majors in his career, the last of which occurred only months before he died in an airplane accident at the age of 42.

Stewart was born in Springfield, Missourimarker, and attended Greenwood Laboratory School, a K-12 school, on the campus of Missouri State Universitymarker. He graduated from Southern Methodist Universitymarker in Dallas, Texasmarker, where he was a member of Phi Gamma Delta. He was always popular with fans, especially for his clothing, and was reputed to have the biggest wardrobe of all professional golfers. He was a favorite of photographers because of his ivy caps and patterned pants, which were a cross between plus fours and knickerbockers, a throwback to the once-commonplace golfing "uniform."

Golfing life

Stewart failed to earn a PGA Tour card at Qualifying School in his graduation year, so he played on the Asian Tour for a couple of years, winning twice. He finally earned his PGA Tour card in 1982 and won his first event on the tour at that year's Quad Cities Open. This was the most special win to him because it was the only time his father saw him win. He won eleven Tour events, including the 1989 PGA Championship and the U.S. Open in 1991 and 1999. He was a two-time winner of the Hassan II Trophy in Moroccomarker. At the time of his death he was ranked third on the all time money list and in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Rankings - he had been ranked in the top-10 for almost 250 weeks from 1986 to 1993 and again in 1999. At a time of international domination of the golf scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was often the highest ranked American player.

Stewart represented the United Statesmarker on five Ryder Cup teams (1987, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1999) and was known for his patriotic passion for the event, once saying of his European opponents, "On paper, they should be caddying for us." He was disappointed to miss out in 1995 and 1997 when he failed to qualify automatically and wasn't chosen as a captain's pick. Stewart also played for the U.S. on three World Cup teams.

Statue commemorating Stewart's win in the 1999 U.S.


On October 25, 1999, a month after the American team rallied to win the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Massachusettsmarker, and four months after his U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, Stewart was killed in the depressurization of a Learjet flying from Orlandomarker to Dallasmarker, Texasmarker for the year-ending tournament, The Tour Championship, held at Champions Golf Club in Houston that year. Stewart was planning to stop off in Dallas to discuss building a new home course for the SMU golf program. The last communication received from the pilots was at 9:27 AM EDT, and the plane made a right turn at 9:30 AM EDT that was probably the result of human input. At 9:33 AM EDT the pilots did not respond to a call to change radio frequencies, and there was no further contact from the plane. The plane, apparently still on autopilot and angled off-course, was observed by several U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft as it continued its flight over the southern and midwestern United States. The military pilots observed frost or condensation on the windshield (consistent with loss of cabin pressure) which obscured the cockpit, and no motion was visible through the small patch of windshield that was clear.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded that the plane suffered a loss of cabin pressure and that all on board died of hypoxia. A delay of only a few seconds in donning oxygen masks, coupled with cognitive and motor skill impairment, could have been enough to result in the pilots' incapacitation. The NTSB report showed that the plane had several instances of maintenance work related to cabin pressure in the months leading up to the accident. The NTSB was unable to determine whether they stemmed from a common problem - replacements and repairs were documented, but not the pilot discrepancy reports that prompted them or the frequency of such reports. The report gently chides Sunjet Aviation for the possibility that this would have made the problem harder to identify, track, and resolve; as well as the fact that in at least one instance the plane was flown with an unauthorized maintenance deferral for cabin pressure problems.

According to an Air Force timeline, a series of military planes provided an emergency escort to the stricken Lear, beginning with an F-16 from Eglin Air Force Basemarker, about an hour and twenty minutes (9:33 EDT to 9:52 CDT - see NTSB report on the crash) after ground controllers lost contact. The plane continued flying until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a field around Mina, a town ten miles (16 km) west of Aberdeen, South Dakotamarker after an uncontrolled descent. The five other people aboard the plane included Stewart's agents Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, and pilots Michael Kling and Stephanie Bellegarrigue, along with Bruce Borland, a highly-regarded golf architect with the Jack Nicklaus golf course design company.

At the time of his death, Stewart had won $12,673,193 in career earnings.

At that year's Tour Championship, Stewart's good friend Stuart Appleby organized a tribute to his friend. With Stewart's wife's permission, he wore one of Payne's own signature outfits for the final round of the tournament, and most of the rest of the golfers in the field wore "short pants" that day as well.

One year after Stewart's death, his widow Tracey and their two children, as well as the family of Stewart's agent Robert Fraley who also died on that flight, brought a lawsuit seeking $200,000,000 in damages against the Learjet's operator SunJet Aviation Inc and owner JetShares One Inc. The case was brought to trial in Federal Court in Orlando, Florida where in June 2005 jurors acquitted the defendants of responsibility for the crash. In their verdict, the jurors also found that the plane's manufacturer, Learjet, had no liability in the deaths of Stewart and Fraley due to negligence in the design or manufacture of the plane.

The segment of Interstate 44 passing through Springfield, Missourimarker was designated the Payne Stewart Memorial Highway in his memory. He also has a street in Fullerton, Californiamarker named after him. There is also a "Payne Stewart Drive" in Surrey, British Columbiamarker, Canadamarker named after him, leading into a golf course designed by Arnold Palmer. Finally, Payne Stewart Drive in Jacksonville, Floridamarker houses The First Tee along with a Job Corps Center.

The communities of Mina and Aberdeen created their own memorial. Jon Hoffman, owner of the property where the plane crashed, contacted Stewart's widow Tracey and several family members of other crash victims; all agreed that the memorial would be a rock pulled from the crash site, engraved with the victims' names and a Bible passage. Hoffman fenced in about an acre (4,000 m²) of the property surrounding the memorial.

In 2000, the PGA Tour established the Payne Stewart Award, given each year to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.

In tribute to Stewart, as well as his southwestern Missouri roots, the Payne Stewart Golf Club was opened in Branson, Missourimarker in June 2009 with the approval of Stewart's wife, Tracey. Ground-breaking on the $31 million layout took place on July 24, 2006. The 7,319 yard 18-hole course was designed by Bobby Clampett and Chuck Smith. Each hole on the course is named for some aspect or notable moment in Stewart's life. For example, the fifth hole, named "Road Hole", recounts the incredible par Stewart made in the first round of the 1990 Open Championship at Old Course at St Andrewsmarker when he was forced to knock his third shot against the wall behind the green at the Old Course's treacherous 17th. His ball finished just on the back fringe from where he chipped in.

On October 25, 2009, exactly 10 years after the death of Payne Stewart, the Golf Channel broadcasted a special presentation to remember the life of the late golfer. The program included taped interviews with family and friends and old videos of past events Payne had won or been a part of.

Professional wins (24)

PGA Tour wins (11)

Major Championships (3)
Regular PGA Tour (8)

No. Date Tournament Winning Score Margin of Victory Runner(s)-up
1 Jul 18, 1982 Miller High Life QCO -12 (68-66-65-69=268) |2 strokes |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Tom Kite]] |- |2 |Oct 23, [[1982 PGA Tour|1983]] |[[Walt Disney World Golf Classic]] |-19 (69-64-69-67=269) |2 strokes |{{flagicon|ENG}} [[Nick Faldo]], {{flagicon|USA}} [[Mark McCumber]] |- |3 |Mar 15, [[1987 PGA Tour|1987]] |[[Hertz Bay Hill Classic]] |-24 (69-67-63-65=264) |3 strokes |{{flagicon|ZAF|1928}} [[David Frost (golfer)|David Frost]] |- |4 |Apr 16, [[1989 PGA Tour|1989]] |[[MCI Heritage Golf Classic]] |-16 (65-67-67-69=268) |5 strokes |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Kenny Perry]] |-bgcolor="#e5d1cb" |5 |Aug 13, [[1989 PGA Tour|1989]] |'''[[PGA Championship]]''' |-12 (74-66-69-67=276) |1 stroke |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Andy Bean]], {{flagicon|USA}} [[Mike Reid (golfer)|Mike Reid]],
{{flagicon|USA}} [[Curtis Strange]] |- |6 |Apr 15, [[1990 PGA Tour|1990]] |[[MCI Heritage Golf Classic]] |-8 (70-69-66-71=276) |Playoff |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Steve Jones (golfer)|Steve Jones]], {{flagicon|USA}} [[Larry Mize]] |- |7 |May 6, [[1990 PGA Tour|1990]] |[[GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic]]* |-8 (67-68-67=202) |2 strokes |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Lanny Wadkins]] |-bgcolor="#e5d1cb" |8 |Jun 17, [[1991 PGA Tour|1991]] |'''[[1991 U.S. Open Golf Championship|U.S. Open]]''' |-6 (67-70-73-72=282) |Playoff |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Scott Simpson (golfer)|Scott Simpson]] |- |9 |Apr 30, [[1995 PGA Tour|1995]] |[[Shell Houston Open]] |-12 (73-65-70-68=276) |Playoff |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Scott Hoch]] |- |10 |Feb 7, [[1999 PGA Tour|1999]] |[[AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am]]* |-10 (69-64-73=206) |1 stroke |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Frank Lickliter II]] |-bgcolor="#e5d1cb" |11 |Jun 20, [[1999 PGA Tour|1999]] |'''[[1999 U.S. Open Golf Championship|U.S. Open]]''' |-1 (68-69-72-70=279) |1 stroke |{{flagicon|USA}} [[Phil Mickelson]] |} *Note 1: The 1990 [[GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic]] was reduced to 54 holes due to inclement weather
*Note 2: The 1999 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was reduced to 54 holes due to inclement weather

Other wins (13)

this list is probably incomplete

Major championships

Wins (3)

Year Championship 54 Holes Winning Score Margin Runner(s)-up
1989 PGA Championship 6 shot deficit -12 (74-66-69-67=276) 1 stroke Andy Bean, Mike Reid, Curtis Strange
1991 U.S. Open Tied for lead -6 (67-70-73-72=282) Playoff1 Scott Simpson
1999 U.S. Open (2) 1 shot lead -1 (68-69-72-70=279) 1 stroke Phil Mickelson
1Defeated Scott Simpson 75-77 in an 18-hole playoff.

Results timeline

Tournament 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
The Mastersmarker DNP DNP T32 T21 T25 T8 T42 T25 T24
The Open Championship T58 DNP DNP CUT 2 T35 T4 T7 T8
PGA Championship DNP CUT CUT CUT T12 T5 T24 T9 1

Tournament 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
The Mastersmarker T36 DNP CUT T9 CUT T41 CUT DNP DNP T52
U.S. Open CUT 1 T51 2 CUT T21 T27 T28 2 1
The Open Championship T2 T32 T34 12 CUT T11 T45 59 T44 T30
PGA Championship T8 T13 T69 T44 T66 T13 T69 T29 CUT T57

DNP = Did not play

CUT = missed the half way cut

"T" indicates a tie for a place.

Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.


Stewart appeared on episode number 169/7.18 of the hit sitcom Home Improvement titled "Futile Attraction", which aired on March 10, 1998 and featured Stewart as himself.

See also


  1. 69 Players Who Have Reached The Top-10 In World Ranking
  2. The Gigantic Book of Golf Quotations, ed. Jim Apfelbaum. 2007.
  4. A special tribute to Stewart on final day
  5. New Payne Stewart award announced

External links

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