Saturday, October 24, 2009

Like The Setting Sun You Turn Around Its Gone

I ripped off that title from one of the best compositions of the Bryan Adams Jim Vallance team.

You ever see a celebrity then not too long later they are gone? Happened twice that I can remember. First time was with Sam Kinnison. Second time was with this man.

1) I saw Sam Kinison perform April of 1990. He was dead two years later. His car was hit by a drunk driver. Ironically, he was killed by something he had been on record advocating.

I remember I had a Sociology exam that day and found out about his death driving to school. Part of me thought of trying to get out of the exam. How could I be expected to sprout off tenets of Max Weber when Sam just died?

2)I saw Payne Stewart ten years ago in what remains the only professional golf event I had ever attended. He was one of the biggest names at the event if not the biggest as I recall. I was totally shocked to hear of his demise six weeks after that tournament.

You just do not know.


What we lost when we lost Payne Stewart

Ten years ago Sunday, Payne Stewart died in a tragic plane accident. It was an unimaginable tragedy for his family and friends, one of the most vibrant personalities in the game gone in an instant. And in a way, the game of golf has never recovered.

Stewart was everything you want a golfing partner to be -- funny, quick-witted, genial, and insanely talented. Along with Paul Azinger, Stuart Appleby, Lee Janzen and others, he characterized the post-Jack, pre-Tiger landscape of golf. At the time of his death, he was 42 years old, and already aware that a younger generation of power golfers -- Woods and Phil Mickelson chief among them -- were working their way onto center stage and making Stewart and his contemporaries obsolete.

Nonetheless, Stewart had a vibrancy to him that no one since has matched. He combined trademark throwback outfits with a deep respect for the game, and as a result the PGA named an award in his honor, to be given to the player who best exemplifies Stewart's traditions of respect and honor. Kenny Perry was the 2009 winner, and previous winners have included Hal Sutton, Davis Love III and Tom Watson.

Since his passing, the PGA family has kept a close eye on Payne's widow Tracey and his two children Chelsea and Aaron. And golfers, officials and media have never forgotten that day; check here for an oustanding, heartrending collection of remembrances of Payne and that tragic day from Golf Digest. From the final pancakes he made for his kids that morning to the frantic phone calls and prayers, it's a difficult but necessary read.

And I defy you to get through this ESPN article, from earlier this year, about how Tracey Stewart is coping and how Aaron Stewart resembles his father, without the room getting a little dusty. The final photograph and caption are an absolute heartbreaker.

Payne's gone, and no player will ever replace him. But as long as the game remembers him, and the way he played, it'll be something. Not nearly enough, but something.

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