PAYNE STEWART AWARD
Parallels to Payne: Sportsmanship
September 20, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Jim Furyk was recently at the World Golf Hall of Fame with the Payne Stewart Award. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
Jim Furyk is the 2016 recipient of the PGA TOUR’s Payne Stewart Award, which is given annually to a player who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship. Here’s a look at how Furyk fills the sportsmanship component.
Jim Furyk first heard the grumblings before his first Ryder Cup in 1997. A few American players wondered about getting paid for appearing in an event with no financial incentive. Furyk wasn’t one of them – he was just happy to be on the team. The U.S. lost that year.
Two years later, the discussions continued. Furyk was again a member of the team. So was Payne Stewart, who’s outgoing personality and presence helped his teammates understand how special it was just to play in these team events. Don’t concentrate on the money, he insisted. Just concentrate on the competition.
The Americans won that Ryder Cup. A month later, Stewart died in a tragic airplane accident.
Furyk will never forget the impact Stewart had on the winning team at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“Payne was a big part of that, the players showing their love for the Ryder Cup,” Furyk recalled. “That, hey, it wasn’t about getting paid. We love playing here. Guys would bend over backwards to make that team – and Payne was a big part of that and kind of led that desire.”
It was about the passion of the event. Furyk has now played in nine Ryder Cups and seven Presidents Cups. Last year, he was a vice-captain for Jay Haas at the 2015 Presidents Cup. It’s a connection he feels with the late Stewart.
“Just his love and his desire,” Furyk said. “…. I always was dying to get on those teams as a young player. It’s the same passion that I have and something I’ll never forget.”
Another similarity between Furyk and Stewart? Their approaches to the game, the delicate balance between the burning desire to win and the pure enjoyment of the competition.
Early in their careers, the desire became so intense that it poisoned some of the joy. But Stewart eventually learned how to deal with heartache, as has Furyk, who has just one TOUR victory since winning the FedExCup in 2010.
“Early in my career, I probably struggled enjoying what I did,” Furyk said. “I looked at it so much as life and death. Every shot you lived on. My days were judged by my success – 75 was a terrible day and 65 was a great day.
“I know it was probably a struggle for Payne as well, but he seemed to enjoy himself and he was such a fierce competitor. It took a long time to really be able to sit back and enjoy. It took me way too long to enjoy golf despite the score.”
But he enjoys it now – and certainly he enjoyed the PGA TOUR record-setting 58 he shot during the final round of the Travelers Championship in August.
“Every competitor lives and breathes moments where they can really get focused,” Furyk said. “That was my moment on Sunday. For opportunities to win more tournaments, for opportunities to get in situations like that – that’s what keeps me at 46 still interested.”