Born: January 30, 1957
Died: October 25, 1999
Birthplace: Springfield, Missouri
College: Southern Methodist University
Turned Pro: 1979
With his distinctive knickers and tam-o’-shanter, Payne Stewart cut a unique figure on the PGA Tour during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Stewart had his detractors, who would question his clothing and his inability to close out tournaments, but by the end of his tragically brief career, Stewart had produced a body of work that was worthy of induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Stewart failed to qualify for the PGA out of college and he made his early career on the Asian tour, where he recorded two victories. Stewart passed Q-school his second time around in 1981 and earned his card for the 1982 season.
Remarkably, Stewart won in his first start – the Quad Cities Open. He won again in 1983. He made his first serious run at a Major tournament at the 1985 Open Championship, falling by a single stroke to Sandy Lyle.
In 1986, Stewart had a tour-high 16 top tens, but he failed to win a tournament. He also held the lead in that year’s U.S. Open before fading badly over the final 9 holes.
At the 1989 PGA Championship, Stewart would exorcise his demons by birdieing 4 of his final 5 holes to defeat Mike Reid and collect his first Major title.
In 1991, he defeated Scott Simpson in an 18-hole Monday playoff at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota to win the U.S. Open.
Stewart flirted with a second U.S. Open title seven years later at Olympic Club in San Francisco. Stewart led after each of the first three rounds and took a four shot lead into Sunday. He struggled on his way to a 74 Sunday, losing by one shot to Lee Janzen’s final round 68.
Stewart would find redemption one year later at Pinehurst No. 2 during the 1999 U.S. Open, defeating Phil Mickelson for the title by a single shot after sinking a 15-foot putt on the final hole of the tournament.
Stewart would die tragically just a few months later in a private airplane accident.