Payne Stewart made a remarkable personal metamorphosis over the 1990s. Always a graceful and talented performer on the course, Stewart as a young tour pro wasn’t universally embraced away from the course as his somewhat bratty, churlish ways rubbed many he encountered the wrong way.
A variety of circumstances and lessons conspired over the 1990s to soften and smooth the edges, and the 42-year-old Stewart who came to Pinehurst for the 1999 U.S. Open was significantly more humble and likeable than the one who won the 1991 Open at Hazeltine.
“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him. He was quite a man.” -Caddie Mike Hicks
Payne II, wrote John Garrity in Sports Illustrated, was “a quieter version of Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning.”
“Payne had really come full circle from the person I knew when I first met him,” adds caddie Mike Hicks, who worked for Stewart from 1988 through Stewart’s death in the fall of 1999. “He was quite a man.”
That evolution of Payne Stewart is perhaps best illustrated in the story of the divots of Olympic 1998 and Pinehurst 1999.