The individual accolades that golfers earn too often define their place in this solo sport.
Major winner. Defending champion. Player of the Year. Tournament title holder.
Then there are the PGA TOUR players who fit into a small and exclusive category: Payne Stewart Award winner. Unlike the others, this group is recognized not just for their individual accomplishments but for how they relate to fans, colleagues and those in need.
Brad Faxon is the epitome of such a relationship-builder, one who works well with and for other people. That's not to say that he hasn't had his share of accomplishments-he has amassed eight victories on the PGA TOUR over his 23-year career--but when taking a look at his impact, it is the relationships that Faxon has formed in a highly individualistic sport that really make him stand out.
Take a look at what he has been able to accomplish with help from a friend. Rhode Island may be the smallest state in the U.S., but it sure houses two pros with big hearts. Good buddies and TOUR golfers Faxon and Billy Andrade paired up in 1991 to form Billy Andrade/Brad Faxon Charities for Children, which has given close to $5 million to kids in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Faxon and Andrade serve as co-hosts of the CVS Charity Classic, which has donated $6.5 million to all different kinds of people in need in Rhode Island. The two are also co-chairs of Button Hole, a short course that serves as a teaching and learning center for kids.
As if that weren't enough, Faxon created a junior golf foundation that introduces kids to the game. He puts on a junior golf day and does a clinic for about 300 kids. Additionally, a scholarship was created in his name for kids that go to college who are in some way involved with golf.
Then there's his relationship with his wife Dory, who heads the PGA TOUR Wives Association, Inc., an organization that gives back to many of the golf communities the TOUR visits. Through Dory, Brad has been exposed to even more charitable efforts.
"I've kind of dragged him in on the TOUR side and made him come to things with me," she said with a smile. "We've been involved on the advisory board of an organization called Christina's Smile, which is an 18-wheeler mobile dental clinic that goes to a lot of the TOUR stops. We have become very friendly with the founder and president of that, Richard Garza. We show up and show our support and it's a great thing. They actually come to Rhode Island now because of our connection to them."
For all of these efforts, both alone and with his friend Andrade and wife Dory, as well as his friendly attitude and on-course demeanor, Faxon was named the 2005 Payne Stewart Award recipient.
"Certainly his career accomplishments speak for themselves, but Brad Faxon's lasting impact has come through his charitable work. Brad has taken the TOUR's philosophy of Giving Back and expanded it to a level that has become well known throughout the golf community and beyond," said PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem in November of 2005. "As a family man, a golfer and through his work with the CVS Charity Classic, Brad Faxon embodies everything the Payne Stewart Award represents."
It was Finchem who called to tell him the good news and Faxon was extremely moved by the recognition.
"I was really choked up," Faxon said shortly after winning. "The award is voted on by the past recipients, guys I worshipped and idolized -- and still do -- so it was like a dream."
Even a year later, Faxon is still touched by the honor.
"I lived in Orlando when [Payne] was alive and we played a lot of golf together and our kids were the same age. He was an unbelievably great guy who changed for the better as his life went on and then, boom, he was gone. It was sad, the saddest thing in the world. I think it is an award you don't think about winning but then you think, if everyone tried to win this award, we would all be better off."
"The PGA TOUR created the Payne Stewart Award for more than just giving back. That's a big part of the award but it's also how you conduct yourself, all the stuff that I don't like to talk about but it's important. Yourself as a role model to others, how you carry yourself, how you dress."
Former recipients of the award include 2000 co-honorees Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, Nick Price in 2002, Tom Watson in 2003 and 2004 winner Jay Haas. Faxon was touched to be among such talented company, but also took time to reflect on life-long memories of the man for whom the award was named.
"I remember playing with Payne my first year on TOUR in the last group at Disney. I was the slowest player in the world back then, and he wasn't having a very good round. I finished third that day. I remember he came over and congratulated me on what a great round I'd had," said Faxon, as he recalled just one of many memories of Stewart, who was killed when his LearJet flew uncontrolled until it ran out of gas and crashed into a field on the way to THE TOUR Championship in 1999.
"But he also told me I needed to learn to play faster," added Faxon. "He was giving me that advice to help me, and I'll always remember that. I'll also remember him chomping on that gum and his laugh, his cackle -- and of course, that putt at Pinehurst."
Faxon is proud to follow in 11-time TOUR winner Stewart's footsteps by helping those who are less fortunate.
"We're lucky being in a position where we can give back. The TOUR is set up in the right way, where people can earn money and give it back."