PAYNE STEWART AWARD
18 things to know about Cink
September 07, 2017
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Stewart and Lisa Cink's remarkable story
Editor’s note: Stewart Cink is this year’s recipient of the Payne Stewart Award presented by the Southern Company. The annual award goes to a PGA TOUR golfer who excels in charity, character and sportsmanship – values displayed by the late Payne Stewart. Cink will be honored the week of the TOUR Championship.
It was nearly 30 years ago when Stewart and Lisa Cink met when they were in high school in Florence, Alabama.
They had a class together, and he sat in the desk behind her. At the time, Stewart was dating one of the girls on Lisa’s softball team. In fact, he dated several of her friends.
“I would try to set him up,” Lisa says. “I liked him. I thought he was fun and nice and all that. And it was all great until he dated one of my best friends our senior year.
“All of a sudden, I'm like, umm, I'm not sure how I feel about that.”
But, Lisa adds, “It worked out the way it should have.”
There were flirtations, to be sure, some dates and even the occasional kiss. But Lisa had a boyfriend and Stewart was usually attached, too. So, the friendship deepened even if romance was on the back burner.
“We would study together and hang out,” Lisa recalls. “It was just easy because we were friends. There was no pressure.”
Things evolved, though, when Lisa enrolled at Auburn and Stewart went to play golf at Georgia Tech. The two-hour drive between the two universities was hardly prohibitive, and by their sophomore year, the two had become serious.
Lisa was attracted to Stewart’s sense of humor, calling him “sneaking funny. He comes off kind of shy and quiet, but he is hilarious.” She says he’s one of the smartest and most humble people she knows, too.
“It doesn't matter what stage of life he is or what stage of golf he is in, if he's just won a major or missed the cut or lost his card or whatever, he's the same,” Lisa explains. “He treats other people the same. I really like that.”
And Lisa remembers exactly when she knew Stewart was the one.
“I dated a guy at Auburn that on paper was like should have been perfect, like he was smart, really good‑looking and we got along well,” Lisa says. “He was fun. He liked me. I went home and told my mom, like, I found this guy who is amazing.
“But I remember being on a date with him and thinking, wow, I wish Stewart was here. That is kind of my epiphany. That was my moment.”
During their sophomore year, the couple learned they were expecting a child. They decided to get married that summer, and Stewart took Lisa to one of their favorite spots near the river to propose. He was afraid he would drop the ring into the water, though, so he lost his nerve.
“We ended going back to my parents’ house and he did it there,” she says. “A little less romantic but I guess a lot safer.”
Safe, maybe, but this marriage was a sure thing. Their next anniversary will be the Cinks’ 25th.
Not that life has always been easy. Finishing their degrees at Georgia Tech – Lisa had transferred from Auburn -- while caring for Connor was a challenge but also the “biggest blessing that could have happened to us,” Lisa says. Friends stepped in to help, offering hand-me-down strollers and baby clothes, but the couple had a lot to figure out on their own.
“Neither of us had any experience with babies,” she explains. “There were many, many, many nights where we were up all night with the baby and had a test the next day. I'm in tears and stressed.
“But through it all, I knew that this wasn't something that happened to us. It was something that came about because of our choices and that made a huge difference. I felt like it was my responsibility and I needed to figure it out.
“But it also helped knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel. We were going to graduate. This would not have kept us from graduating. That was something that was nonnegotiable.”
Several years later, the Cinks had a second son, Reagan. Connor graduated from Clemson and is now working in Charlotte, while Reagan is a junior at his parents’ alma mater. Stewart and Lisa are empty-nesters now and she’s a regular in the 2009 Open champion’s gallery.
“I miss my kids terribly and I'm lost without having that mom role day to day,” Lisa says. “But getting to travel and actually be with him, we've never been able to do that full time. It's a lot of fun. It's an adventure kind of getting to know things out here again.”
Getting to travel the country with her husband became even more of a blessing last year when Lisa was diagnosed with breast cancer. She says Stewart has been her safety net, her strength and her shoulder to cry on.
The six-time TOUR winner has been actively involved in her battle from day one, doing research on her treatment and giving her the results “in a calm, kind of small dose kind of way to help me get my mind around what it is that I'm facing.
“But he's also made a great balance, because he hasn't let me completely focus on my diagnosis or treatment or whatever because of his chance to play out here,” Lisa says. “It's been an amazing diversion. I'm not having to sit around and think about what ifs and what ares and that sort of thing. Just him doing what he's doing has also been great and normalizing things for me.
“He is an emotional person but not a dramatic person. So, having the kind of stability has kept me very in the moment, very grateful and very focused on what's ahead instead of what's behind.”
And of course, no one knows a TOUR player better than his wife. So now that you know a little more about this special courple, Lisa gives us 18 things you might not know about this year’s Payne Stewart Award winner.
1. He’s obsessed with all things BBQ and has a competition team with his swing coach Mike Lipnick and lifelong friend Chad Parker, who is the general manager at East Lake Golf Club. The team name? Que School
2. He has a tattoo.
3. He loves chick flicks and musicals. (His favorite Broadway show is Les Miserables and he has the soundtrack on his Spotify.)
4. He loves hiking, especially in Glacier National Park, Montana.
5. He geeks out for snow skiing. He makes an annual tradition of squeezing a day on the mountain in between the Sony Open in Hawaii and Career Builder Challenge in California. (The overnight flight from Honolulu-to-Salt Lake City lands at 7:10 a.m. and he’s on the chairlift by 9:30!)
6. He is pretty skilled at wake boarding and wake surfing. He has been known to clear the wake on his wakeboard
7. I surprised him with a Porsche for his 30th birthday, which he kept for the three-year lease. Since then he's driven a pickup.
8. If this golf thing doesn't work out, he will become a meteorologist.
9. He serves on the board of the Pregnancy Resource Center of Gwinnett.
10. He keeps the Claret Jug front and center by the kitchen instead of hidden away in the golf room or trophy case (Yes, we have a golf room complete with a putting green in our basement.)
11. He knows the lyrics to pretty much every song from The Sound of Music.
12. His favorite beer is Guinness and he swears it totally tastes better in Ireland.
13. He hates massages, pedicures and all things spa.
14. He just went through a four-year bluegrass/folk phase, which landed us at concerts such as Old Crow Medicine Show and Avett Brothers.
15. He wears a bite guard at night to keep from snoring, which has completely saved our marriage.
16. He was an avid skateboarder back in the day, hitting the half pipe on his Christian Hosoi board.
17. He is a dark chocolate addict, and is never found without 3 or 4 bars on him with varying flavors and nuts -- but never below 60 percent cacao.
18. He goes on an annual "BBQ Tour" with fellow BBQ aficionado Davis Love III during the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, where they have visited up to four BBQ joints in a single night.