Justin Rose reflects on 'overwhelming' honor of Payne Stewart Award
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Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour
Justin Rose honored with PGA TOUR’s Payne Stewart Award
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Payne Stewart noticed a spindly 12-year-old waiting patiently outside the ropes at the Open Championship that day at Royal St. George's and tossed him a golf ball.
Justin Rose, who is now 41, still remembers the feeling when he caught it.
“That was a cool moment and made my day,” he said.
So, imagine what it felt like on Monday when he hopped on a Zoom call to do some media interviews and the faces of Tracey Stewart and her son Aaron popped on the screen. Suddenly the cameras in the background made a little more sense.
Stewart’s widow and son were on the call to tell Rose that he was the 2021 winner of the Payne Stewart Award presented by Southern Company.
“My heart was pounding,” Rose said. “Speaking to Tracey and Aaron, (it) really sort of hit me when you see the family themselves who are so obviously invested in it and invested in Payne's legacy.
“It made me realize -- I've been to the awards ceremony many times, but now to be on the receiving end of things, the gravity of it definitely hits you.”
The award has been given annually since 2000 by the PGA TOUR to recognize a golfer who exemplifies Stewart’s character, sportsmanship and commitment to charity. Stewart, who counted three majors among his 11 TOUR victories, died in an airplane accident during the 1999 TOUR Championship.
Rose, who has 10 wins on TOUR, including the 2013 U.S. Open, called the honor a “huge surprise and something that’s definitely uplifted me.” Other winners of the Payne Stewart Award include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Bernhard Langer, Davis Love III and Tom Watson.
“It's the kind of award I think that clearly it's not based around your golf,” he said. “The golf's been a platform for me to sort of I guess do other things and be honored and recognized in this way, but it's the type of reward that kind of makes you reflect a little bit on all the things that contributed towards that.
“… Something I'm very proud of, and obviously the list of the names I'm joining on that trophy, yeah, it's overwhelming actually. It's definitely some great players and more importantly some great role models in the game.”
Rose turned pro at the age of 17 after tying for fourth at the Open Championship, the year before Stewart died. As a result, he never got to know the larger-than-life American, but he does remember the Stewart watching him hit balls on the range that year.
“I can't remember exactly what he said, but he watched me hit two or three balls and said, ‘Oh, that's how it's done,’ like a cool comment, just something that showed his charisma really, I suppose,” Rose recalled.
The award is accompanied by a $500,000 grant from the Southern Company. Of that total, $100,000 will go to the Stewart Family Foundation; $100,000 to the Payne Stewart Memorial and $300,000 to a charity designated by the winner. In this case, it will go to the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation that was established in 2009.
The many charitable efforts of Rose and his wife Kate, a former international gymnast, have focused on improving the lives of children in their adopted home of Orlando, as well as the Bahamas, Rose’s native South Africa and England, where he moved to at the age of 5.
The Kate & Justin Rose Foundation has provided nutrition, books and educational experiences to children in central Florida since 2009. Toward that end, the KJRF – whose mission is to “feed hungry tummies and curious minds” -- started the Orlando chapter of Blessings in a Backpack, called Rose Blessings Orlando, in 2020.
To date, the KJRF has given $2.2 million to Rose Blessings Orlando and has gone from feeding 1,625 children to nearly 5,000 on the weekends and during the summer. The long-term goal is to serve all 16,000 food-insecure children in Orlando by 2030.
In addition, the KJRF partnered with the ONE Bahamas Fund in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian to rebuild and support the operations of the hard-hit Grand Bahamas Children’s Home.
And with the Ladies European Tour shut down in 2020 as COVID-19 ravaged Europe, Rose and his wife also sponsored “The Rose Ladies Series.” The Series consisted of eight events to provide playing opportunities for British women professionals and was expanded in 2021 to 11 to fill gaps in the LET schedule.
Rose also sponsors the “Justin Rose Telegraph Junior Golf Championship” to help grow the game. Any amateur under the age of 18 can enter at no charge.