PINEHURST, N.C. – The Fat Boy Story, as it is known among Payne Stewart fans, rises again.
Tom O’Toole, who will take over as U.S. Golf Association president on Saturday, announced Friday that Stewart, the two-time U.S. Open champion, is the posthumous winner of the 2014 Bob Jones Award. This is the USGA’s highest honor, awarded to an individual who, like Jones, demonstrates exceptional spirit, personal character and respect for the game.
Payne Stewart as he birdies at the 17th hole during the 1989 British Open at Royal Troon.
Payne Stewart after winning the 1989 PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes.
Payne Stewart during the 1990 British Open at St. Andrews.
Payne Stewart plays from the ninth fairway during the 1991 AT&T Pebble Beach.
Payne Stewart during the 1991 U.S. Open at the Hazeltine National.
Payne Stewart after winning the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine National.
Payne Stewart during the 1993 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Payne Stewart lines up a putt during the 1993 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.
Payne Stewart celebrates his win against Mark James during the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry.
Payne Stewart during the 1993 Ryder Cup at the Belfry.
Payne Stewart celebrates with a magnum of champagne after the U.S. defeated Europe in the 1993 Ryder Cup.
Payne Stewart during the 1994 Memorial Tournament.
Payne Stewart reacts to a birdie putt on the 18th hole en route to a 66 on the opening day of the 1998 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Payne Stewart reacts to a birdie putt during the 1998 U.S. Open in San Francisco.
Payne Stewart during the 1998 PGA Championships at the Sahalee Country Club.
Payne Stewart poses with the winners trophy after the 1999 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Payne Stewart celebrates after sinking his winning putt on the 18th green to win the 1999 U.S. Open.
Payne Stewart celebrates after sinking his winning putt on the 18th green at Pinehurst during the final round of the 1999 U.S. Open.
Payne Stewart embraces Phil Mickelson after Stewart sank his winning putt on the 18th green at Pinehurst No. 2 during the final round of the U.S. Open in 1999.
Payne Stewart holds up the 1999 U.S. Open trophy after winning at Pinehurst.
Payne Stewart talks with Michael Jordan at the 1999 Ryder Cup.
Justin Leonard and Payne Stewart line up a putt during the Ryder Cup at the Brookline in 1999.
Payne Stewart falls to his knees after missing a chip shot Sept. 26, 1999 at the Ryder Cup.
Payne Stewart plays from a bunker during the Ryder Cup at the Brookline in 1999.
Payne Stewart and Mark O”Meara after winning the Ryder Cup in 1999 at Brookline Country Club.
Payne Stewart out of a bunker on the 11th hole during the 1999 Alfred Dunhill Cup played at The Old Course at St. Andrews.
Flowers adorn Payne Stewart’s parking spot at the Tour Championship in Houston.
Walking through the early morning fog on the first tee Oct. 28, 1999, bagpiper Steve Agan begins the memorial service for Payne Stewart before the PGA Tour Championship at Champions Golf Course in Houston.
A bridge at Hazeltine National was named in honor of Payne Stewart, the 1991 U.S. Open Champion at Hazeltine.
Payne Stewart during the 1999 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Stewart won his second U.S. Open title here in 1999 at Pinehurst Country Club, sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the final green to edge Phil Mickelson by one stroke.
O’Toole, talking with Golfweek, went back another 20 years, to 1979, recalling the final match of the Missouri Amateur between Stewart and Jim Holtgrieve, who captained the last two U.S. Walker Cup teams in 2011 and 2013.
In 1979, Holtgrieve was coming off his first appearance as a Walker Cup player. In Muirfield, Scotland, he posted a 2-1 record during a 15 1/2-8 1/2 U.S. victory. Heading into the Missouri Amateur at Wolf Creek Golf Club in Olathe, Kan., Holtgrieve was the clear favorite.
Nobody told Stewart.
“They were in opposite ends of the draw, and they got to the final,” said O’Toole, who was Holtgrieve’s caddie. “We were leaving the range to go to the parking lot (after the semifinal matches), and so was he.
“He looked Jimmy right in the eye and said, ‘Bring your Walker Cup game tomorrow, fat boy.’ They almost came to blows. It became a face-to-face altercation that I happened to be right in the middle of. Back then Payne was a brash, aggressive, kind of a confrontational guy. It almost got physical.
“The next day,” O’Toole said, “Payne put his money where his mouth was. He won, 9 and 8. Standing on the 17th tee of the morning round, he was 2 up. He won 17 and 18. Then he came out in the afternoon and just ran the table.”
O’Toole, a St. Louis attorney, later served on the board of directors of the Missouri Golf Association with Payne’s father, Bill Stewart.
“And Payne, I’m happy to say,” O’Toole added, “became a guy who transformed his life. I was privy to that, and it was impressive. He evolved into one of the great ambassadors for the game. He engaged in a memorable spiritual journey.
“He later told me, ‘Treat your body as if you’ll live forever; treat your soul as if you’ll die tomorrow.’ “
O’Toole was waiting at the bottom of the locker room steps after Stewart’s emotional triumph at Pinehurst in 1999.
“I whispered in his ear: ‘Your dad really would have been proud of you today.’ We had a hug. I walked into the scoring tent with him. I gave him a pat on the shoulder, and I never saw him again.”