Lehman accepts PGA Tour's Payne Stewart Award with mixed emotions

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Tom Lehman was very pleased to be named to win the Payne Stewart Award, but still saddened by Stewart's untimely death in a 1999 plane crash.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Tom Lehman never won an award that brought so much honor and so many mixed emotions.

Lehman was presented the Payne Stewart Award on Tuesday, given to the player who shared Stewart's respect for tradition, charity and who presented himself through dress and conduct.

"An award like this, I'm not really sure how to take, quite frankly," said Lehman, whose five PGA Tour victories included the British Open. "There's so many conflicting emotions. The overriding feeling that I have even sitting here right now is I really wish that this award wasn't being given out for another 30 years."

Lehman shared some good Ryder Cup stories involving Stewart, who was killed in 1999 in a private plane crash. But the most indelible link between Lehman and Stewart came before the first round of the 1999 Tour Championship in Houston. Lehman spoke at a ceremony for Stewart, where 29 players sat in folding chairs as a ghostly fog swept over Champions Golf Club.

Lehman was to accept the award Tuesday night in downtown Atlanta. At a news conference at East Lake, he shared one of the stories he planned to tell that embodied how Stewart treated the game.

Stewart was in the final match at the 1999 Ryder Cup against Colin Montgomerie, and he had stashed a top hat of the Stars and Stripes in his golf bag to wear down the 18th fairway if the Americans were to win.

They rallied to win in most dramatic fashion, with Justin Leonard holing the "putt heard 'round the world," a 45-foot birdie in the second-to-last match."

Stewart left the hat in the bag. In fact, he conceded a 25-foot putt to Montgomerie on the last hole.

"I said, 'Why didn't you put that hat on?'" Lehman said. "His comment was, 'I couldn't do that to Monty.' I thought about that, and I think that really says a lot about his idea of sportsmanship, his idea of competition, his idea of respect for your competitor, his idea of respect for the game.

"There was a lot that I learned about that -- about people, about dealing with people, about having fun and about respecting the game -- from Payne."