Payne Stewarts legacy lives on in son Aaron

By Rex HoggardOctober 22, 2009, 10:03 pm

It was a seminal moment, like 9/11 or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and it is burned into the collective consciousness by circumstance and shock.

The average cable viewer on Oct. 25, 1999, probably had little idea who Payne Stewart was or what the charismatic Missourian had accomplished on golfs grandest stages, yet a decade later the image of Learjet N47BAs ghostly journey across Americas heartland is still vivid.

I was buying a card for my wife, recalls fellow touring pro and friend Larry Rinker, the emotions flooding back with HD clarity. Someone called me and I just remember standing in the store thinking, I cant do this.

Aaron Stewart
Aaron Stewart

The eerie facts are all too familiar.

Stewart, his agent Robert Farley, Van Ardan and Bruce Borland, a golf course architect who was working with Stewart, took off from Orlando International Airport bound for Dallas on the morning of Oct. 25. Stewart was consulting with officials at Southern Methodist University, his alma mater, on a golf course and from there he planned to fly to Houston for the Tour Championship.

At 9:27 a.m. (ET), officials recorded the last communication from the pilots of N47BA. Less than 6 minutes later a request by air traffic controllers for the pilots to change frequencies went unanswered.

For nearly an hour-and-half Stewarts plane porpoised through the sky, gently climbing until it reached the engines operational ceiling at which time the autopilot would ease the plane back to an acceptable altitude. The plane ran out of fuel over South Dakota and crashed into a field near Mina, a town about 10 miles west of Aberdeen.

The National Transportation and Safety Boards official report of the accident concluded a sudden loss of cabin pressure overwhelmed the passengers and crew and all on board died of hypoxia.

Less than a month removed from his signature team victory at the Ryder Cup and less than five months removed from his defining individual triumph at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Stewarts legacy ended as a stunned nation watched.

Everyone, that is, except for a towheaded 10-year-old.

Aaron Stewart, Paynes son and the youngest of two children, vaguely remembers the day his mother, Tracey, told him his father was gone. The day family friend Jon Brendle took him on his lap and promised to tell him every story about his father. But thats not where Aarons mind races a decade later when he is asked to remember Payne.

Now a square-shouldered young man with his own mop of blond hair and a devilish sense of humor, Aaron Stewart remembers the day Payne outdueled Phil Mickelson at Pinehurst. The chills he got when his father holed the winning putt on the 72nd hole, the pride he felt.

Paul Azinger and Aaron Stewart
Paul Azinger and Aaron Stewart at the 2008 Father/Son Challenge. (Getty Images)

I watched the whole round, in front of the TV. It was a rainy day (in Florida), like at Pinehurst, said Aaron Stewart, who didnt play golf at the time. I didnt know that it was as big a deal as it really was. That is what I remember the best.

Just over Aaron Stewarts left shoulder in the clubhouse at Sugarloaf Mountain Golf Club near Orlando, Fla., as recounts that rainy June day is a picture of Payne celebrating with the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Brookline. Aaron vaguely remembers Americas comeback, much like he remembers his fathers final fateful flight, but its Pinehurst that resonates.

We went to Pinehurst a few years ago. I made that putt (on the 18th hole). It took me a couple of tries, but I did it, recalls Aaron Stewart as a smile inches across his boyish face.

There is a familiarity to Aaron Stewarts swing, a distant reminder of his fathers graceful action but somehow modernized by motion and a game that has left lazy behind.

Its definitely two different swings, said Aaron Stewart, who started playing golf shortly after his father died and receives instruction from Paynes former swing coach, Chuck Cook. We look at my dads swings on video, I look at that and where I am, its pretty different.

Even 10 years later, Paynes shadow is impossible for Aaron Stewart to avoid and, if his actions are any indication, he has neither the inclination nor the ability to avoid his fathers legacy.

Aaron Stewart could have played college golf at a dozen schools, but he picked SMU, he picked Cook, he picked golf. At school there is a statue of Payne in the Hall of Distinguished Alum, its much like the statue of Payne officials put up at Pinehurst or the one at Waterville Golf Club in Ireland.

This one, however, is just upstairs from the workout room the SMU golf team uses. Its not there to remind Aaron Stewart what he has to live up to so much as it is an example of how he should live his life, much like the pictures he has of his father in his room at school.

Aaron Stewart has another memory of his father. Its a snapshot of a church filled with 5,000 of his fathers friends and family. A eulogy delivered in signature tam oshanter cap and plus fours by Paul Azinger. A line of Tour players waiting to embrace he, his sister and mother.

Lerner: Payne Stewart: More than a champion

It was a tough day, but it was nice to hear all the nice stories, Aaron said of the funeral service. It was nice to see how many people he influenced. It was cool to see.

In his eulogy, Azinger spoke for an entire generation: To try to accept the magnitude of this tragedy is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

A decade removed from the tragic happenings of Oct. 25, 1999, the 10-year-old who seemed oblivious to it all has figured out the secret. The truth is, Aaron Stewart has learned that the best way to accept the loss is to never stop thinking about his father.

Every day, Aaron Stewart said. My mom and my sister and I think about him every day.

Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."