It was an awkward pose. Right hand in a fist, arm bent upwards. Right leg outstretched, also bent upwards. It looked like something a youngster might do to keep from stepping off a curb. But Payne Stewart’s contortions after making a 15-foot putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst created, perhaps, the most endearing image of his life.
“It was the one moment that Payne had to himself (as) the U.S. Open Champion,” said Pinehurst Country Club Director of Retail Stephen Cryan. He and others at Pinehurst pushed to have a statue of Stewart, who was a Springfield, Missouri native, commissioned. It’s called simply, “A Moment In Time”.
The victory came just four months before Stewart lost his life in a plane accident at the age of 42. It was the last of three major championships that Stewart won (he won the U.S. Open twice). He was also a member of the 1999 Ryder Cup team, that staged one of the most memorable comebacks in that event’s history.
As Pinehurst’s first U.S. Open winner, the idea of a statue in his honor was already in the works. His unexpected death cemented those plans. But that won’t be the only tribute to Stewart this week. Ceremonies celebrating his life and career have already been held this week.
On Sunday, the pin placement at the 18th hole will be in the same spot where Stewart made the tournament-winning putt and the pin flag will feature a silhouette of Stewart. Fans will also receive a commemorative pin of Payne Stewart in the memorable pose.
There will also be what Cryan called a “walk of fame”, which features pictures of his U.S. Open victory. Stewart’s wife, Tracey Stewart, loaned Pinehurst the clothes he wore during the final round. That outfit will be on display in a shadow box.
The display includes the sleeveless pullover jacket he wore that day. Stewart thought the sleeves inhibited his swing, so he cut them off. He was known for his unique sense of fashion—Stewart always wore plus four pants and a Kangol brand hat. According to Cryan, a few snips of the scissors began another Stewart-inspired trend.
“As time has gone on…one of our hottest selling items, when it’s cooler, is a sleeveless jacket.”
Cryan said the club has worked very hard to not let the tributes overshadow the U.S. Open as a whole. But there’s no question that Payne Stewart and his legacy is something Pinehurst will remember forever.
“He’ll always be our champion, even though he didn’t have a chance to defend it.”