Payne Stewart

Payne Stewart

Payne Stewart
Personal Information
Birth January 30, 1957
Springfield, Missouri
Mina, South Dakota
College Southern Methodist University
Turned pro 1982
Professional wins 23 (PGA Tour: 11, Other: 12)
Major Championship results
Wins: 3
Masters T8: 1986
U.S. Open Won 1991, 1999
British Open 2nd/T2: 1985, 1990
PGA Championship Won 1989
Byron Nelson Award 1989
World Golf Hall of Fame 2001
William Payne Stewart (January 30, 1957October 25, 1999), was an American 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, Missouri, and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, 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 tam o'shanter caps and patterned trousers, which were a combination of 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. 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 Morocco. At the time of his death he was ranked 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 States 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.


On October 25 1999, a month after the American team rallied to win the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Massachusetts, and four months after his U.S. Open victory at Pinehurst No. 2, Stewart was killed in the depressurization of a Learjet flying from Orlando to Dallas, Texas for the year-ending tournament, The Tour Championship, held at Champions Golf Club in Houston that year. 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 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, lack of oxygen. 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.

There was some speculation that military jets were prepared to shoot down the Lear if it threatened to crash in a heavily populated area. Officials at the Pentagon strongly denied that possibility. "Shooting down the plane was never an option," Air Force spokesman Capt. Joe Della Vedova said. "I don't know where that came from."

Instead, 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 Base, 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 west of Aberdeen, South Dakota after an uncontrolled descent. The five other people aboard the plane included his 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.

One year after Stewart's death, his widow Tracey and her 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.

After his death, the stretch of Interstate 44 that passes through Springfield, Missouri was designated as the Payne Stewart Memorial Highway in his memory. He also has a street in Fullerton, CA named after him that leads into a golf course he designed in the hilly oil fields found there. There is also a street named "Payne Stewart Drive" in Surrey, BC Canada named after him that leads into the golf course designed by the great Arnold Palmer.

Professional wins (23)

PGA Tour wins (11)

Major championships are shown in bold.

Other wins (12)

this list is probably incomplete

Major championships

Wins (3)

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

Results timeline

Tournament 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
The Masters 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 Masters 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", it aired on March 10, 1998 and featured Stewart as himself.

See also


External links

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