On Tuesday at the site of this week’s tour championship, East Lake Golf Club, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced this year’s winner of the prestigious Payne Stewart Award. The Payne Stewart Award is given to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game’s heritage of charitable support, and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct. This year, the Payne Stewart Award was presented to Tom Lehman.
Below is Tom’s acceptance speech, courtesy of PGATOUR.COM, of which you can view in its’ entirety HERE.
Tom: “You know, winning a golf tournament is one thing. You work and practice and you prepare and you go out and you give your very best, and hopefully you’re the best this week and you get the trophy. An award like this, I’m not really sure how to take quite frankly, just because it’s — there’s so much — so many in some ways conflicting emotions.
I think when I was told I was going to receive this award, I started thinking about my years knowing Payne Stewart, some of the most fondest memories on Ryder Cups. I think the overriding feeling that I had and I still have even sitting here right now is I really wish that this award wasn’t being given out for another 30 years. It would be nice to have Payne Stewart here still. And I think the TOUR — it would be great to see where his life might have gone. His leadership, his style, his grace, his sportsmanship, his leadership qualities, his smile, his laugh, they were such a big part of the TOUR, and with the friends.
So to accept this award is so incredibly humbling. It’s so humbling that I’m not even sure how to say thank you. There are so many people that involve themselves in the lives of other people. My parents, my wife, my kids, my friends, and it’s just — you have to be giving the award to those who have influenced me because I feel like I’m kind of on the road with them. So anyway, I appreciate this very much.”
(Question – Can you just give us your best Payne story?)
Tom: “You know, well, when I think of the Ryder Cup, I think of 1999 at Brookline and the celebration after we won, and him and his jalapeno pepper pants drinking tequila shots on top of the piano. I think that’s one really nice memory.
You know, but he — that week, there was so much about that week that I learned about him. He talked about his father and how much he wished his father would have been at that Ryder Cup to watch him play, and he was very tearful and it was obvious that he cared very much about his family and the people around him that he loved.
That week again, on Sunday, the U.S. Team really believed that we had — if you can imagine it, the upper hand going into the singles. We felt like we were a favorite in every match but yet we were four points down, and we ended up winning, and he was the last match on the course.
And he had put the stars and stripes Uncle Sam top hat into his bag, so after all is said and done, I said, why didn’t you put that hat on? It was a big celebration. Why didn’t you put the hat on walking down the 18th fairway. His comment was, I couldn’t do that to Monty. I thought about that, and I think that really says a lot about his idea of sportsmanship, his idea of competition, his idea of respect for your competitor, his idea of respect for the game. He couldn’t do that to Monty because he didn’t want to in any way show any kind of disrespect for the event and the people that he respected. So there was a lot that I learned about that, about people, about dealing with people, about having fun and about respecting the game from Payne. It was a great week.”
I don’t think anyone could argue that Tom Lehman isn’t a deserving winner of this award, as he’s been one of the tour’s classiest, most stand-up players throughout his entire career. He joins a list of 12 other players who have won this award since its’ inception back in 2000.
2009 – Kenny Perry
2008 – Davis Love III
2007 – Hal Sutton
2006 – Gary Player
2005 – Brad Faxon
2004 – Jay Haas
2003 – Tom Watson
2002 – Nick Price
2001 – Ben Crenshaw
2000 – Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer