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Payne Stewart's biography goes on sale

Payne Stewart holds the US Open trophy that he would have been defending in a couple of weeks time. Allsport

Pebble Beach will be filled with memories of Payne Stewart. So will the bookstores.

Order "Payne Stewart" the authorised biography from

The late U.S. Open champion and one of golf's most recognizable figures was killed Oct. 25 in a plane crash. Tracey Stewart's biography of her husband is scheduled to be released Thursday, two weeks before he would have begun defense of the title he won in such dramatic fashion last year at Pinehurst No. 2.

"Payne Stewart" was written with Ken Abraham, author of more than 40 books but never a project quite like this.

"It was extremely challenging from the standpoint that the accident took place so recently," Abraham said. "Going back through some of the memories was almost like peeling back wounds that did not have a chance to heal.

"But Tracey's attitude was incredible. Her ability to deal with reality was impressive. The story needed to be told, and told now."

It will join two other books already out.

"The Payne Stewart Story" was written by Larry Guest, columnist for The Orlando Sentinel, who covered his career since Stewart moved to Florida in 1984.

Another book recently released is "I Remember Payne Stewart," written by Golf World senior editor Michael Arkush, which consists primarily of anecdotes from players, friends and golf reporters.

The timing is appropriate.

Along with this knickers and tam o'shanter caps, Stewart's career will be remembered most for his U.S. Open play. He won in a playoff at Hazeltine in 1991 over Scott Simpson, and avoided one with Phil Mickelson last year by making a 15-foot par putt on the final hole, the longest putt to decide a U.S. Open in its 105-year history.

And the U.S. Open traditionally ends on Father's Day.

"It's not a tour player's book, it's really a family book," Abraham said. "She wanted a book his kids could be proud of."

The book delves as much into Stewart at home as on the course.

"May this book be a permanent reminder of your wonderful father and how much he loved you," she wrote in the dedication to 14-year-old Chelsea and 11-year-old Aaron. "May you both live with a similar sense of love, joy, adventure and enthusiasm for life."

Her book begins with Stewart's victory in the U.S. Open, the putting tip she gave him on Saturday and how she raced to the course from their villa at Pinehurst as Stewart and Mickelson were playing the 18th hole.

Then, it goes back to the beginning -- Stewart's childhood in Missouri, college at SMU and his early career on the Australasian Tour, where he met Tracey during a stop in Malaysia.

Stewart and five others, including his agents and friends Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, were killed when the private jet leased by Leader Enterprises flew uncontrolled across the country until it ran out of fuel and crashed in South Dakota.

But details of the crash, and her final moments with Stewart, are not mentioned fully until the final two chapters.

Stewart made pancakes for the kids that morning, then Tracey took them to school as he prepared to leave for Dallas and on to Houston for the Tour Championship. She was to join him at Champions Golf Club on Sunday.

"Payne called after me as the children and I backed out of the garage, around 7:30 a.m.," she writes. "As we waved good-bye, Payne stood on the steps blowing us kisses."

Their 18th anniversary was about two weeks after the crash. After getting through Thanksgiving, Chelsea's birthday and Christmas, the project began.

Abraham had only three months to gather information with Tracey, spending hours around the table where he would turn on a recorder, listen and take notes.

"She was willing to talk about difficult areas," he said. "We shared some tears and some laughs. My goal was to get Tracey's heart on paper, not so much a shot-by-shot of his career. It was more like, 'This is the Payne I knew, that my children knew, and maybe you didn't get a chance to know."'

Abraham was also co-author of "Zinger!," the story of Stewart's best friend on tour, Paul Azinger, and his successful battle with cancer that was diagnosed just three months after he won the 1993 PGA Championship.

Abraham went out on tour in January, starting with the Mercedes Championship and gathering most of his anecdotes during the West Coast swing. Abraham met with more than 30 players, usually in groups.

"They were coming back as a group for the first time, and what I found was that most of the guys really wanted to talk about Payne," Abraham said. "It was a constant discovery for me, and that was the marvelous part of doing this book."

Guest's book, which includes reflections from former president George Bush, begins with an interview with Tracey Stewart after his death, then goes straight to the crash, and the reaction from those closest to Stewart. He develops his anecdotes from his years covering golf, and they reflect locker room stories.

All three books depict a player who was, as Azinger noted during Stewart's eulogy, "the life of every party."

Abraham said he didn't mind having two other books on the market, nor did he view them as competition.

"They fill in some details on Payne that we didn't do or chose not to tell," he said. "This is the story she wanted to tell to let the world know about her husband."

Order "Payne Stewart" the authorised biography from

Order "I remember Payne Stewart" from

Order "The Payne Stewart story" from

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