There’s a moment in Golf Channel’s new documentary on the life of Payne Stewart when his widow, Tracey, opens a cardboard box and pulls out personal items recovered from the Oct. 25, 1999, plane crash that claimed the lives of Stewart and five others. The camera lingers on Tracey Stewart as she pulls out the items, one by one.
“Not only is it very powerful but I also think it shows the love affair between Tracey and Payne,” said Keith Allo, vice president of original productions at Golf Channel.
There will be plenty of reminiscing about Payne Stewart when the U.S. Open returns to Pinehurst Resort on the 15-year anniversary of his 1999 victory. In “Payne,” Golf Channel’s hour-long documentary, Allo said Stewart’s final major championship served as “the jumping-in point,” but the goal was to show golf fans the arc of Stewart’s life.
Allo said what viewers will see is “a guy who players loved and fans rooted for. But at times he could be off-putting to the media. What’s interesting is how he grows up for his wife. He starts to realize at times his flippant attitude didn’t play well.”
“Payne” was produced by Peter Franchella, a 15-time Emmy winner who was the NBC cameraman following Stewart and Phil Mickelson on the final day of the 1999 Open. It will debut on NBC June 8 at 5 p.m., and re-air June 9 on Golf Channel at 10 p.m.
The documentary makes extensive use of home videos, Allo said. In an excerpt viewed by Golfweek, Stewart is seen playing with his children and taking his family to Missouri to spend Christmas with his parents.
There also are some eerie moments: footage of the monument that sits on the Mina, S.D., farm where Stewart’s plane crashed, and also recordings of air-traffic controllers trying to reach the pilot. Finally, one controller says, “I think we’ve got a dead pilot up there.”
The U.S. Golf Association also will have its own Stewart documentary ready for Open week. Ross Greenburg, former president of HBO Sports, has produced “1999 U.S. Open: One Moment in Time.”
If you want to see that one, you’ll have to go to Pinehurst. The documentary is not presently scheduled to be shown on television, though Sarah Hirshland, the USGA’s senior managing director of business affairs, said she is exploring distribution options. The documentary could be made available digitally or via cable television, but she said no plans have been finalized.
For now, it will be shown at Tufts Park in the Village of Pinehurst as part of the U.S. Open Experience. It will debut June 10 at 9 p.m.
That same day the USGA also will show three short videos as part of its Bob Jones Award ceremony, which is honoring Stewart.