June 20, 1999.
We still miss you, Payne.
The sun was tucking behind some clouds into the western horizon over Pinehurst Sunday evening and casting a soft, golden glow over the proceedings just in front of the 18th green on the No. 2 course. If Martin Kaymer had turned and looked over his right shoulder, through the pine trees he could have seen the steeple of the Village Chapel a few hundred yards away; the chapel clarion was now softly pelting out eight notes at the top of the hour.
USGA President Thomas O’Toole stood at the podium and spoke of the previous champions at Pinehurst—of Ben Hogan and Sam Snead from the sepia-toned era and Payne Stewart and Michael Campbell from the modern epoch—and welcomed the newly anointed U.S. Open champion from Germany to the same heady fraternity.
USGA Executive Director Mike Davis marveled at how Kaymer’s 271 total and eight-stroke victory were forged not only with precise and consistent shots but the planning that went into each of them and the mental fortitude that helped him escape from the few dalliances with trouble he encountered over four days of No. 2.
They’ve stood sentinel over the practice putting greens at Pinehurst for decades. They’ve traveled the world on the shirts and caps of golfers. They’ve lured guests to Pinehurst from the pages of newspapers and magazines for a century. And they’ve been the centerpieces of handsome marks for Pinehurst’s chapters in the U.S. Open.
“The Golf Lad” and his offspring pal, “The Putter Boy,” are certainly among the most famous inanimate figures in the game of golf.
Frank Presbrey, Pinehurst’s first advertising counselor, in the early 1900s created a young boy that appeared in the resort’s early advertising and calendars who was called “The Golf Lad,” “The Golf Boy,” or “The Golf Calendar Lad.” Later he was replaced on the calendars sent annually to hotel guests by photos of Donald Ross playing the Pinehurst golf courses.
ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi brings us the story of Pinehurst’s First Family.
No, not the Tufts.
If you cannot view the video, click here.
Sadly neither of Pinehurst’s U.S. Open champions will grace the fairways of No. 2 on June 12 when the 2014 championship begins. Payne Stewart lost his life in an airplane mishap only three months after winning the 1999 Open, and Michael Campbell’s game peaked with his triumph in June 2005 and he recently announced that injuries and personal troubles would prevent his entry this year.
But for one week in the American national championship, they were the very best in the business, this Missourian with the plus-fours and graceful swing and this gritty New Zealander with steel nerves over a 4-iron and razor-sharp putter.
Each had paid his dues in professional golf by the time the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens came to Pinehurst No. 2. Stewart was 42 with eleven PGA Tour wins, Campbell was 36 with six victories on the European Tour. Both were married and the father of two children.