October 25, 1999.
Like most kids who didn’t have the fortune to grow up in a house along an 18th Fairway or with a Country Club membership, Golf was always on the distant periphery of the Sport Landscape. Basketball, baseball, football, hockey – those were sports you could play pretty much anywhere, even the middle of the street, back when that sort of thing was not only acceptable but actively encouraged. Side note – Ask yourself when was the last time you had to slow your car down cuz you were driving through the middle of a touch football game? Yeah that doesn’t happen anymore.
Anyways while the likes of Larry Bird or Walter Payton just seemed to always exist in my sport obsessed pre-adolescent mind, the first Professional Golfer I can actually recall being aware of is Payne Stewart. And not even because of his golfing but rather his outfits.
Payne Stewart tailored the color scheme of his outfits to whatever the closest NFL team was to where the tournament was being played.
Obviously to a sport nut 10 year old this was completely fascinating. An honestly it still is.
But Payne Stewart was more than a man in snazzy outfits. First off he was a damn fine golfer. 11 Tour victories, 2 Majors and 2 Seconds in the Open.
The Man could swing a golf club.
Of course everyone remembers the bizarre saga with the plane playing out in real time like some sort of precursor to the reality TV hell we now are trapped in but back in 1999 things like that just didn’t happen on live TV.
But what really should be remembered is not the way Stewart died but the way he lived. As a golf ambassador spreading the game in ways that he probably wasn’t even aware of. Like to a suburban kid north of Boston who couldn’t pick out a 7 Iron from a stick on the ground.
Rest In Peace Payne Stewart. A true original.