Happy birthday Payne Stewart.
Golfer, gentleman, icon, champion. Can't really add too much to that list...nor would you want to.
Stewart, who won eleven PGA Tour events (including three major championships) showed that hard work and perserverence could - and should - be rewarded in the game. Even more, class and humility would always be a part of golf's culture as well.
His throwback fashion style, complete with plus fours and ivy caps, made him distinctive. His engagement with fans made him popular. His fiery passion made him a champion. And of course, his fist pump at Pinehurst (the '99 U.S. Open) made him a legend.
Each year, the PGA Tour recognizes 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 dress and conduct." The name of the award? The Payne Stewart Award...naturally.
The then 42 year-old golfer was in his prime, coming off one of the most memorable U.S. Open wins of all time - and being a part of one of the most incredible Ryder Cup comebacks ever (Brookline), when he was taken from us in a tragic airplane accident in Oct. 1999. But his legacy and spirit still live on. Very strong in fact.
Pinehurst, which has immortalized that fist pump with a now famous statue off the 18th green, will be hosting both the men's and women's U.S. Opens this year. There will be much talk about Payne Stewart and his place in the game. As there should be.
Stewart would have been 57 years-old today. Hoping he's teeing it up somewhere and celebrating with a fist pump.
John Kim's Twitter avatar includes Payne Stewart (and once he tried to change the avatar and was shamed into not doing it by many). You can follow him on Twitter at @johnkim.