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Memorial Held for Payne Stewart at U.S. Open

Aired June 14, 2000 - 10:21 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We take you live now to Pebble Beach, California. This is where Tracy Stewart, the widow of golfer Payne Stuart, is speaking. This is a ceremony honoring the man who would have been the defending champion of the U.S. Open.

Let's listen to Tracy Stewart.


TRACY STEWART, PAYNE STEWART'S WIDOW: ... It's really sad that he can't be here this week to defend his championship. These past 7 1/2 months have been extremely hard to live without Payne. I have a huge void in my heart that only Payne can fill.

Although I realize that Payne is not coming back to be with me here on Earth, I hope to be with him and God in heaven one day.

So my message to you today is about hope. Even though Payne was fortunate enough to win this championship twice, he had hoped to win it many other times. But no matter what challenges Payne faced each year at this tournament, he never lost his hope. And as a result, he still inspires hope in all of us.

Payne saw failures as only temporary setbacks. There were times in his career when he was pretty disappointed but he refused to quit. The only people who never fail are the people who never try to win or accomplish something great. Failure is only permanent if you allow it to be and Payne refused to allow failure to rob his hope.

He did not measure his future by his past. Payne won a lot of tournaments during his career, but he also came in second quite frequently. Payne tried to turn his losses into learning experiences and he was determined to do better the next time.

Going into the 1999 United States Open at Pinehurst, at age 42, Payne still hoped and believed that he could win. And he did. What a wonderful thrill that was for us. Even though Payne had hoped to win more U.S. Opens, he had learned to put his hope in other things that mattered more to him: His faith in God, and his love for his family.

As much as Payne loved being the United States Open champion, he knew that one day someone else would take the trophy home; someone else would hold the title. But no one could take away the love he had for God and his family. Circumstances in life can be overwhelming at times. But if we count every day as a precious gift from God and live it to the fullest, like Payne did, then hope will build in our hearts and we will find the courage to face whatever challenges lie before us.

I hope we can all learn a lesson from Payne. If he were here in person today, I believe he would say: Don't ever give up. Don't lose hope. If you have experienced some setbacks and some losses, no matter how severe, they are only temporary. You're future is not measured by your past. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep hoping for the best. With God's help, you can live and die victoriously. Thank you.

KAGAN: That was Tracy Stewart. She is the widow of golfer Payne Stewart, who will be defending the champion at the U.S. Open, which is set to begin tomorrow at Pebble Beach, California.

Next in the ceremony is going to be a song performed by the singer Stephen Curtis Chapman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the bible tells me so. Little ones who...


KAGAN: As we listen to the song, you are going to see some of the top golfers in the world walking up to the tees on the edge of Pebble Beach. This is going to be a very unique salute to Payne Stewart, this is going to be their equivalent of a 21-gun salute, instead it is going to be a 21-tee salute. These golfers will one by one shoot golf balls into the Pacific Ocean. It is their way of paying tribute and saying good-bye to Payne Stewart.

You might remember, last year, he was in a thrilling playoff with golfer Phil Mickelson, and in the end, it was Payne Stewart who won. And he went over to Phil Mickelson afterwards, gave him a big hug, and said: You are going to make a great dad. Being a father was more important to Payne Stewart than being one of the top golfers in the world.

And it was the day after that great play-off that Phil Mickelson and his wife had their first baby. And here it is, a year later, no Payne Stewart. It was four months after he won the championship that he was on-board a private plane with five others, a freak accident happened, and they all lost their lives, leading to this tragedy, and to this incredible tribute.

Let's go ahead and listen to the song and watch as the golfers tee-off and shoot their golf balls into the Pacific Ocean off of one of the greatest, most beautiful golf courses in the world: Pebble Beach.


KAGAN: Bringing you these pictures courtesy of the Golf Channel. So we don't really have control over the pictures that you see on the screen. Once again, this is in Carmel, California, about two hours south of San Francisco, some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. A Beautifully clear day in Carmel.

And the golfers who will begin tomorrow competing in this year's U.S. Open are starting the festivities by giving a final tribute and a final good-bye to Payne Stewart, who would have been the defending champion. He won the championship last year at Pinehurst, North Carolina, after he made a spectacular 15-foot putt on the 18th hole to beat Phil Mickelson by one stroke.

Kind of -- the shot has pulled out a bit so it is hard to see who exactly is up there. If they pull in, we will give you a play by play. Bill can jump in here too and see if he recognizes. That is David Duval there on the left screen. There is Tracy Stuart, the widow of Payne Stuart.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Taking these guys a little longer than we thought to warm up out here. But it early out there, just about 7:30 a.m. on the West Coast, the sun just up there.

And again, as Daryn mentioned, there is Jesper Parnevik with the hat...

KAGAN: Bill Mayfair, and Phil Mickelson, who lost by one stroke there, standing next to Bill Mayfair with the blond hair.

I think ceremony is expected to go on at least 30 minutes, not only do these golfers get to tee-off into the ocean others, but others get to come up and tee-off too. So we are going to go ahead and take a quick break.



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