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Home town memorial to Payne Stewart unveiled

A statue of the late golf star Payne Stewart was dedicated today in his hometown, with Stewart's mother pronouncing the bronze memorial "perfect."

Bee Payne-Stewart said she was pleased with "the expression on his face, and the fact that it's so huge, because he was a huge person.''

Lora Thomas, the late golfer's sister, spread some of his ashes around the statue's base.

About 600 people gathered on the east lawn of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame for the unveiling of the $175,000 memorial.

Stewart and five other people were killed Oct. 25, 1999 when, on a flight from Florida to Texas, their jet veered off course and flew unguided for hours, the victims apparently unconscious or already dead. Finally, after running out of fuel, the plane plunged into a South Dakota field.

"It's difficult to think sometimes that Payne is not here,'' said Hall of Fame board chairman Joe Greene. "He was one of us. He was the hometown hero made good.''

And the way he handled his fame, Missouri Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson said, was one of the many traits that set Stewart apart.

 

Payne Stewart with the US Open trophy he won in 1999. Allsport.

"Payne made a statement for the people of Missouri as a professional golf star, but he was more than that,'' Wilson said. ``He got big, and he was able to handle it with style and grace, something we should all aspire to.''

The Buy.com Tour's Ozarks Open was being played in Springfield this weekend in memory of Stewart, with some 1,200 volunteers all wearing lapel pins bearing his silhouette.

"It seems like not a move is made here at the Ozarks Open without remembrance of Payne,'' said Jerald Andrews, the tournament director and Missouri Sports Hall of Fame executive director.

Andrews said it's not a coincidence that the statue of Stewart, depicted with his swing's famed high finish, is facing north - in the direction of his home course, Hickory Hills Country Club.

"I hope this statue does Payne justice,'' sculptor Harry Weber said, "but I think Payne built his own monument with all of those who loved him.''

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