Those of us that are old enough to have seen it in person were emotionally impacted when a newly matured Payne Stewart responded to his win by immediately heading over to his opponent and grabbed his face in two hands to express himself to Phil at that moment as a father. You see Phil and his wife Ami were expecting a child to be born any moment and Phil, earlier in the week, had made it clear that when he got the call, he would abandon his attempt to win his first U.S. Open and rush home to support his wife and baby.
What many may have missed at that emotional and exhilarating moment for Payne and Phil was what was quite obvious to me and many others of us who are Believers in Jesus Christ. On Payne's wrist is a black wristband with the inscription WWJD which we know stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" It was at that moment that I, personally, knew what the real story was and I wanted to discover the back story. Well, I found it back then and just now was reminded of it when searching and finding the Art Stricklin Sports Spectrum article from March 2000
Register for prizes......
"To understand golfer Payne Stewart—the most public of sports figures, who died the most public of deaths last October—you have to look deeper to see what changed him over the last 18 months of his life. And the best way to do that is through the eyes of his friends and colleagues."
“I knew him when he was the perfect Frat Rat,” Ogrin says. “I played against him for three years and knew he was a genuine hard worker. At times he could be a genuine pain in the neck, but we all knew he was a genuine champion. When he talked to you, he was genuinely interested in what you had to say.”
But Ogrin, like Stewart’s many close friends, including golfer Paul Azinger, sports agent Robert Fraley, and baseball pitcher Orel Hershiser, came to see a genuine difference in the once egotistical and often sarcastic golfer.
“In the last couple of years, Payne became a genuine Christian. He had earned everything a man could earn on his own in the golf world and found that it wasn’t enough,” Ogrin adds. “To understand what finished out the man and the grasp that it held on him, you have to see what Jesus has to offer and the place He played in Payne’s life.”
The difference, according to PGA Tour chaplain Larry Moody, was that Stewart went from having a religion he could fall back on if needed, to a personal relationship with Jesus, which carried him through the highs and lows of his final months in this bunker we call “earth.”
“God used a little bit of everybody in Payne’s life,” says First Baptist associate pastor J.B. Collingsworth. “Larry Moody and Paul Azinger were factors, his kids brought it home to him daily, and he came to First Baptist Orlando, where he joined the men’s Bible study and learned many things here.”
Early in the 1999 golf season, Aaron gave his dad his WWJD bracelet, which stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” The 10-year-old proved wise beyond his years when he challenged Dad to come out of the closet and let others know about his private commitment to Christ.
Moody was one of the first to hear from Payne about his bold commitment when he encountered him on the practice range at the Shell Houston Hope in April. Seeing Stewart wearing the bracelet, Moody asked for some background information and listened as Stewart told him that God had truly changed his mind, body, and spirit.
“In the last year, I knew Payne was committed to God, but in Houston was when I found he was unashamed publicly of his commitment,” Moody says.
The rest of the sports world caught on a few months later when Stewart conquered the demanding Pinehurst No. 2 layout to win his second US Open title, capping the victory with a bracelet-encircled fist thrust into the air on the 18th green.
That photo and Stewart’s spoken, public commitment were played around the world the following day as his path from carnal, clutter-filled darkness to peaceful life became clear......
Please continue to read
YOU can participate with us in celebrating Christ, Payne's life and our outreach to the visitors to the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Please click here and/or on the graphic and sign up for your very own Open Doors wristband.
Register for prizes......