A few months ago, there was a terrific feature by Golf Digest’s John Strege on Zenos Frudakis.
Not sure who Zenos Frudakis is? Here, let Strege explain:
It is the bane of the successful contemporary artist that his work is usually better known than his name. In this case, his name is Zenos Frudakis. Ever heard of him?
Yet even the casual golf fan is likely familiar with the sculpture of a celebratory Payne Stewart, one leg in the air, his right fist piercing the sky, on display near the 18th green of Pinehurst No. 2 where Stewart struck this pose as he won the U.S. Open in 1999.
There is a lot of great stuff in the piece. Among the best:
“We’re not going to forget these people and what they accomplished and meant to us,” Frudakis said. “Bronze helps us do that because it endures. That’s the reason the Egyptians made sculpture.”
Frudakis can hold his own with anyone in golf:
“Do you golf?” Nicklaus asked him while posing in his home adjacent to Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
“No,” Frudakis replied.
“That’s all right, that’s all right,” Nicklaus said.
“Do you sculpt?” he asked Nicklaus.
“No,” Nicklaus replied.
“That’s all right, that’s all right,” Frudakis said, apparently with glee.
Soon after Payne Stewart died in a freak airplane mishap in October of ’99, Frudakis was commissioned by Pinehurst Resort to capture that iconic moment when the winning putt dropped. He recalls traveling to Pinehurst and encountering a despondent Stewart family. “I remember I went into the golf shop and his son [Aaron] was sitting on the floor in a corner by himself, looking very sad,” he said. “His widow [Tracey] looked devastated.”
“It’s extremely gratifying for me, to see people take the pose, especially to see his daughter do it.” – Zenos Frudakis
The sculpture he produced was unveiled in 2001, but its impact was not fully realized until the U.S. Open there in 2014. By then it had become a popular landmark at Pinehurst, when hordes of fans were photographed striking a similar pose alongside the Stewart statue, including Stewart’s daughter Chelsea. “The coolest statue photo you’ll see this week,” the PGA Tour called it on Instagram.
“It’s extremely gratifying for me, to see people take the pose, especially to see his daughter do it,” Frudakis said, “to see them interact with the piece, to see [Chelsea] laughing, smiling.
“It’s his moment of victory. It was exciting. With Payne Stewart at the peak of his career, this was his Icarus moment, to have fallen so tragically from such a high place. I think for a lot of people there is some healing for having the sculpture. The sense with bronze is that people have wanted to make something that will last because we don’t.”