PAYNE STEWART AWARD
My friend Stewart
Ben Crane on why his good friend Stewart Cink is worthy of this year’s Payne Stewart Award
September 14, 2017
By Ben Crane, Special to PGATOUR.COM
- Stewart Cink will receive the Payne Stewart Award, presented annually to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Editor’s note: Stewart Cink will receive the Payne Stewart Award presented by Southern Company next week during the TOUR Championship. One of his best friends on the PGA TOUR, Ben Crane, pays tribute to this year’s recipient.
I met Stewart in 2002 when I was a rookie on the PGA TOUR. I don’t know exactly how we met, whether we were hitting balls next to each other on the range one day or saw each other at the TOUR Bible study or what. But as I got to know him, I was impressed by how he was guided by his faith and committed to his family. He immediately became the person that I wanted to emulate in the way I played golf, the way I loved other people and the way I love my family.
He’s always been there for me. I remember at THE PLAYERS Championship the following spring, I shot 79 in the first round. I was basically a mess. I was down on myself. I was wrestling with fear. I wasn’t feeling good about my game at all. So I decided to call Stewart.
As we talked, he didn't make me feel like there was something wrong with me. He just affirmed that this is very natural and he told me to remember that my identity is not golf, right -- it's in who God says I am. He said that God made me and loves me and when you're experiencing fear, you're thinking about yourself.
Stewart told me he’d had similar feelings. And it was like wow, you, too? You're a legend out here, you’ve had so many wins and such a great career. I'm like, wow, even him. So, his words of encouragement really lifted me up. I went out there in the second round and shot 68, and even though I missed the cut, I felt so much more positive. He walked me through it successfully and honorably, and as luck would have it, we got paired together the next week in the final round of the BellSouth Classic. I actually ended up winning that week, and I attribute a lot of that to Stewart’s words of encouragement. I really do.
Another thing about Stewart is that he's really funny. He’s witty and self-deprecating in a welcome-you-in kind of way. Stewart brings out the silly side in us and he can make the smallest little Curb-Your-Enthusiasm thing, like, so funny. I don’t know anyone on TOUR who doesn't love Stewart -- and trust him, too. That’s why he’s been elected to the TOUR’s Policy Board so many times. He just seems to have time for everybody. And if you ever want to have a good conversation with him, ask Stewart about barbecue. He LOVES that. I just got a Big Green Egg, so when I'm grilling something, I always text Stewart and his coach Mike Lipnick for pointers. They’re so good, they’ve won real barbecue competitions. I mean, they’re the masters.
You know, it’s interesting. Stewart loves the game, but his No. 1 goal in life is not to be a better golfer. That can easily get away from us out here. We can get so focused on it and 9 out of 10 people in our lives refer to us in terms of golf, too. You can lose yourself in that. But Stewart has done a great job of seeking his identity in the Lord and it shows.
And then there’s his family; his wife Lisa, who is a really spectacular person, and their two sons. The way he talks about them and always makes time for them is something special. The boys are grown now, but he used to go home so he could watch the boys play hockey. My wife Heather and I are always kind of looking to them to see how they're managing this life -- as players, we’re on the road 20 or 30 weeks a year, and our family is probably only out five, six times. It’s a challenge and the two of them have made the best of it.
Stewart just loves Lisa so much, too. Obviously, that was shown pretty publicly when she was diagnosed with cancer. He's like, golf, this means very little to me. Heather and I have had some very tender moments with them as couples post-diagnosis, talking about the meaning of life. It's just sweet to watch them draw closer to the Lord, draw close to each other and he'll tell you his marriage is stronger than ever because of it.
He was the first person I asked who wasn’t a pastor to teach at our Bible study group. It’s fun to hear players and how they're walking out their faith on TOUR. He spoke and it was so great. We were immediately like, would you speak again? He just talks about his own struggles and his own fears and it's just honest. It’s very easy to present a false sense of self but it takes a man to be really honest. Stewart does a great job of this in my opinion, and it just welcomes people in. He is a really special person and I can’t think of anyone better to receive the Payne Stewart Award.