PAYNE STEWART AWARD
Q&A: Chelsea Stewart shares her journey back to Pinehurst
June 11, 2014
By Courtney Boroff, PGATOUR.COM
- Chelsea Stewart poses with the statue of her dad at Pinehurst. (Courtesy of Chelsea Stewart)
The 15th anniversary of Payne Stewart’s victory at the 1999 U.S. Open brings back many memories of Payne and the beautiful family he left behind. His daughter, Chelsea Stewart, made a trip to Pinehurst alongside her Mother, Tracey, to accept the Bobby Jones Award on her father’s behalf (Read the story here). Chelsea is an employee of the PGA TOUR and worked with the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for three years before moving up to New York to work for The Barclays as tournament services manager.
Presented annually since 1955, the Bobby Jones Award is the USGA’s highest honor. It recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, winner of nine USGA championships.
Q: Why do you think your dad is being recognized with this award?
Chelsea Stewart: I think that my father, like Mr. Jones, really had a great respect for the game of golf. They both were men of great personal character, who always played the ball where it lied and took in life the same way.
My father was intensely patriotic and the U.S. Open was his favorite tournament he played in every year, because it was his national championship, and it always corresponded with Father's Day.
His passion on the course and attitude toward the fans made him a great ambassador for the game. I know my dad would have been incredibly honored to be bestowed with this award named after a great gentleman and ambassador of the game.Chelsea Stewart and her mom, Tracey, did several interviews during their visit to Pinehurst. (Courtesy of Chelsea Stewart)
Q: What are your plans for the trip to Pinehurst with your mom? What are you looking forward to most in visiting Pinehurst?
Stewart: We have a few interviews for Pinehurst and other media outlets, but the main purpose of the trip is to accept the Bob Jones Award in honor of my father. I'm probably looking forward to the banana cream pie from the Pinecrest Inn more than anything else. That stuff is the jam!
Q: When your Father won the 1999 U.S. Open, were you there?
Stewart: I was not there. I actually was on a school bus headed back to Orlando from a basketball camp at Florida State University. We were listening to the NBC broadcast on the radio and got back just as they teed off on 18. I didn't even see the last putt drop, but someone ran into the building where we were unloading yelling, "He made the putt! He made the putt!" We all cheered and hugged. I got back to my friend's house that evening and watched all the highlights. It was great.
Q: Who are you rooting for this week at the U.S. Open?
Stewart: I have four or five guys that I'd love to see win, but since it's our national championship, I'll stick with the Americans. Webb Simpson was a standard bearer at Pinehurst in '99, so that would be a cool story, from volunteer to champion. I'd love to see one of the younger guys win, like Rickie Fowler, Harris English or Jordan Spieth. All of those guys are so composed and such great ambassadors for the game of golf. Working for the TOUR, I've watched Rickie stand and sign autographs for hours; that really does make a difference to the fans. Plus, all of those guys are just really genuine, nice people. Finally, how cool would it be for the story to come full circle with Phil winning this weekend? I can't think of a better way for Phil to get his Grand Slam than at Pinehurst.Chelsea Stewart and her mom, Tracey, pose with the Bobby Jones Award. (Courtesy of Chelsea Stewart)
Also to honor Payne’s legacy is the Payne Stewart Award – presented annually at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Stewart died tragically during the week of the TOUR Championship in 1999. Southern Company, the “Official Energy Company of the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour,” was the TOUR Championship sponsor the year of Stewart’s passing. The PGA TOUR created the Payne Stewart Award in his honor, and Southern Company has supported the annual presentation at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola since its inception.
Q: What does the Payne Stewart Award mean to you and to your family?
Stewart: It is such an honor to have an award named after my father. The Payne Stewart Award in particular focuses on not only excellence on the golf course, but more importantly, being an excellent person.
The Payne Stewart Award focuses on respect for the game, upholding the game's heritage, giving back to the local community and how they represent themselves through their dress and conduct. The award couldn't have hit the nail more on the head.
Q: Do you stay in contact with any of the Payne Stewart Award recipients?
Stewart: Of course, many of the men who have won the award were very close with our family. I see Peter Jacobsen at tournaments quite often (he actually hosted the Bobby Jones Award ceremony at Pinehurst). I saw Hal Sutton down in Miami at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and my mom stays in touch with many of their wives; she saw Sue Price(wife of Nick Price) just recently. It's always so lovely that so many past recipients return to Atlanta each year for the award presentation; that's where I've seen many of them most recently.
Q: How was it working for the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola?
Stewart: Working for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola was my dream job right out of college. I had the opportunity to manage the community outreach initiatives there and by extension got to work very closely with the East Lake Foundation. What an incredible transformation that neighborhood has gone through! In 20 years it has gone from one of the worst crime rates (18 times higher than the national average) to one of the safest neighborhoods in Atlanta, and Drew Charter is just an amazing school! It's pretty incredible what Mr. Cousins,(who is also a Bob Jones Award recipient, and his team have done in that neighborhood.
Q: Do you have any favorite stories that current or past golfers have told you about your father?
Stewart: Ha, where do I begin? Paul Azinger talks about how my dad stuffed bananas into his loafers after he holed out from a bunker at the Memorial to beat him. My dad used to have a gnarly set of fake teeth and I think he pulled a few pranks on some guys with those. I think one story that really shows the man my father was is told by David Feherty. At the '91 Ryder Cup at Kiawah, which was an incredibly heated competition, David and my father were paired together for the Sunday singles matches, and as David was walking from the 16th green to the 17th tee a marshal stopped him and said he couldn't go any further, obviously not recognizing that he was on the team and playing in the match. My dad was walking behind and saw this happening and went over, put his arm around David's neck and said "I'm sorry ma’am, as much as I'd love for you to keep him here, he's playing against me today," and they walked together to the next tee. My dad, even in the heat of the competition, knew that David was being hassled, and he didn't want that to affect the spirit of the competition. I think that really showed his character and what he stood for.
My favorite quote by my father goes something like this "But in the end it’s still a game of golf, and if at the end of the day you can't shake hands with your opponents and still be friends, then you've missed the point."