birdies on four
of the last five
victory in 1989 at
Golf Club came
10 years before
By Dave Shedloski
“People might still look at that PGA
(Championship) and think Payne backed into it because he was finished a half-hour before the leaders, but you have to look at what he did to get there,” says Curtis
Strange, who was one of three men to finish runner-up to Stewart that mid-August day in 1989. “If I remember right, he finished pretty strong.”
Indeed, Stewart, a Missouri native known for wearing knickers and colorful garb, was brilliant when it mattered most: on the back nine on Sunday at a major championship.
After telling ABC on-course reporter
Jerry Pate at the turn that he needed to
shoot an inward 31 to have a chance,
Stewart did just that thanks to birdies on
four of the last five holes. His closing 67
and 12-under-par 276 total was good for a
one-stroke victory over Strange, Andy Bean
and Mike Reid.
“The last nine holes of a major, some
really strange things happen,” Stewart said
after claiming the Wanamaker Trophy and
$200,000 first prize out of the 1.2 million purse. “I just stood in that tent and said a little prayer.”
Years later in an interview in Golf Digest,
Stewart, who died in 1999 in a Learjet crash, acknowledged that the prayer was answered. “I kind of backed into that one, but hey, I shot the lowest score for 72 holes,” he said. “Jack Nicklaus won some like that, too.”
Nicklaus, the five-time PGA Champion, tried to win that one, too. Then 49, the
Golden Bear opened with a 68 at Kemper
Lakes, only the third public facility to host the PGA Championship, which got him into the hunt before being undone by a Saturday
73. More amazing were the efforts of Arnold Palmer, a month shy of 60, who also opened with 68. He led outright early, getting as low as 6-under before the music stopped, but his run was one of the most compelling stories of the week.
Until Stewart thrust himself into the mix, the tournament was owned by Mike
Reid, nicknamed “Radar,” who navigated
IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO THAT THE LATE WILLIAM PAYNE STEWART, WHO always stood out on the golf course with his sartorial sensibilities, used his golf clubs to become the last man standing in the 71st PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Hawthorn Woods,
Ill., and win the first of his three major championships.
Right: Payne Stewart’s final-round 67 earned him his first of three major championships. Left: Mike Reid led after each of the first three rounds before Stewart heated up on the back nine on Sunday.