Twenty years ago this month the plane carrying Payne Stewart, along with business partners and colleagues, crashed into the fields of South Dakota. A shock to the golf world and beyond, the tragic death came just months after Stewart won the 1999 US Open. If you’re at all like me, I have only really known the Payne Stewart of 1999–the distinct wardrobe, the affable smile, the infamous made putt and celebration on the 18th green at Pinehurst. These are my enduring memories of the man.
With great anticipation I find this month’s selection, Kevin Robbins’ book, The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever. His book chronicles Payne’s redemptive triumphs of 1999, juxtaposing those successes against the trials and tribulations leading up to that point. For me, it’s an avenue to learn so much more about a 3-time major champion, one of the game’s great characters, and a man who is so much deeper and more interesting than his wardrobe.
The back cover of the books reads as such:
Forever remembered as one of the most dramatic storylines in the history of golf, Payne Stewart’s legendary career was bookended by a dramatic comeback and a shocking, tragic end. Here, Robbins brings Stewart’s story vividly to life. Written off as a pompous showman past the prime of his career, Stewart emerged from a long slump in the unforgettable season of 1999 to capture the U.S. Open and play on the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team. He appeared to be a new man that summer: wiser, deeper, and on the verge of a new level of greatness. Then his journey to redemption ended in October, when his chartered Learjet flew aimlessly for more than a thousand miles, ran out of fuel, and fell to earth in a prairie in South Dakota.His death marked the end of an era, one made up of “shotmakers” who played the game with artistry, guile, finesse, and heart. Behind them were Tiger Woods, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, and other young players whose power and strength changed the PGA Tour forever. With exclusive access to Stewart’s friends, family, and onetime colleagues, Kevin Robbins provides a long-overdue portrait of one of golf’s greats in one of golf’s greatest seasons.
This is a rare selection that I have not read yet, but as mentioned, am very excited to do so. Also, if you’d like to hear the author, Kevin Robbins, discuss the book and his writing process, check out Episode 42 of the TrapDraw podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts. Enjoy!