June 30, 2009

Payne Stewart's Son Playing Tournament This Week on Pinehurst #2

Aaron Stewart, 20, is competing in the pretigious North and South Amateur this week on the site of his father's famous -- and final -- win.

On a misty, cool Father's Day ten years ago, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Payne Stewart had one of the best final-round US Open battles on the venerable Pinehurst #2 course, with Stewart prevailing over Mickelson at the last, when he sunk a fifteen-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win his second US Open.

Stewart had been the picture of calm, cool and collected that day, going about his business with an almost detached air despite the heat and light the three men were generating as they came down the stretch towards the clubhouse. When his winning putt fell in the cup, he could no longer contain the raw emotions that had been coursing through him all afternoon. He thrust his fist into the air with a whoop and holler, and celebrated the well deserved win.

Four month later, he was dead -- a victim of a horrible aircraft malfunction that allowed all of the air in the cabin to escape, killing everyone aboard while the plane flew onward as a ghost ship.

Aaron Stewart was ten years old at the time, and not even a big golf fan or player. He didn't start taking the game seriously until he was in high school, and last week was the first time he returned to the Pinehurst course since the 2001 dedication of the statue behind the 18th hole that marks his father's legacy there.

Aaron is in his sophomore year year at Southern Methodist, and one day hopes to be a PGA Touring pro. “Our family has always thought very highly of the people here and Pinehurst overall, so when I found out about the North and South, I thought if I could get in, it’d be a lot of fun to play,” he said.

He will need to survive two days of medal play to qualify for the match play bracket over the weekend, and should he do that, he will have a chance for a rare father-son victory in different tournaments on the same course.

Aaron will have a secret weapon that may well make that a strong possibility: Mike Hicks, his father's former caddy who was on the bag for Payne's 1999 victory will be caddying for him this weekend. Of Aaron, Hicks told Raleigh's WRAL TV that “The mannerisms and the way he conducts himself, there’s a few things that remind me a lot of his dad."

And if Aaron Stewart can conquer the tough test that is the #2 course, he will in many ways become just like his famous father as well.

1 comment:

  1. Great story. I see a resemblance in more ways than one.

    ReplyDelete

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