Paul Azinger pulled a tam o'shanter cap
snugly over his head and rolled up his trousers to knickers-length,
revealing a garish pair of argyle socks - all part of a poignant
tribute to his close friend, Payne Stewart.
On a table below the pulpit where Azinger offered his eulogy
today, a gold chalice gleamed. The Ryder Cup rarely leaves its
trophy case at the PGA of America headquarters, but there could be
no better showcase.
In a gripping service at a church where Stewart finally found
peace, he was remembered above all for his passion, for his wife
and two children, for the three major championships he won, for the
Ryder Cup team he would have captained and for the game that made
him such an endearing figure.
"Payne Stewart loved life," said Azinger, whose garb drew
applause and laughter from the crowd. "He was the life of every
A party is what Tracey Stewart wanted for her 42-year-old
husband, who was among six people killed on Monday when his Learjet
flew uncontrolled across the country before crashing into a field
in South Dakota.
She remembered him as "the most beautiful-looking man I'd ever
seen" when they first fell in love, and as a father who was a line
judge at 13-year-old Chelsea's volleyball match, and who watched
10-year-old Aaron catch a touchdown pass two days before the fatal
She was a big part of his career, too. She noticed his head
moving over his putts in the third round of the U.S. Open. The next
day, keeping that crucial tip in mind, he made three crucial putts
on the final three holes to win the championship in spectacular
"You will always be my soulmate and my best friend. We love
you. Let the party in heaven begin," she told some 3,000 people
attending the memorial at the First Baptist Church, causing many to
More than 100 PGA Tour players and officials were in attendance,
including Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, former PGA Tour commissioner
Deane Beman, and former Ryder Cup captains Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite
and Lanny Wadkins. Also present was most of the field from the Tour
Championship in Houston, including Tiger Woods, David Duval and
Davis Love III.
When the two-hour service ended, they formed a line down both
sides of the center aisle -- a protective wall for Mrs. Stewart to
walk through. She held her head high and greeted them later at a
The PGA Tour shut down tournaments in Texas and Mississippi
so players could honor Stewart. About 100 players were at the
service, along with their wives and some caddies.
The tournaments will resume Saturday.
"I love the guy," Fred Couples said. "It's so easy to say
now. Looking around at all the people, it was a beautiful ceremony.
I feel our hearts were lifted."
There was only one round of applause - when Azinger, his close
friend, reconfigured his outfit to look like Stewart.
"I figured it would take Payne Stewart to get me in a suit, but
I never thought I would stoop to this," he joked. "I felt
pressure this morning knowing he would be watching."
The service included a song written this week by country singer
Vince Gill and played on tape, Christian singer Michael W. Smith,
and a video presentation that captured some of Stewart's 18
victories and comments.
"I'm going to a special place when I die," he said in one
interview played on a big screen in the church. "But I want to be
sure my life is special while I'm here."
Next to the Wanamaker Trophy for his PGA Championship victory in
1989 and the U.S. Open trophy, which he won for the second time in
June, was the prize that meant as much as any to Stewart - the
Ryder Cup, which the U.S. won last month after the greatest
comeback in the 72-year history of the matches against Europe.
"Payne Stewart was a vicious competitor. He only played to
win," Azinger said.
Azinger also paid tribute to Robert Fraley and Van Ardan, who
also perished in the crash and were Stewart's agents as well as his
He concluded with a tearful "Goodbye, Payne. We loved you and
we miss you, but we know we will see you again."
Displayed along with three of golf's most prized possessions
were painful reminders of what Stewart's death leaves behind -
photos of his family on a rafting trip, and one picture taken just
nine days ago with his son at the annual Father-Child tournament
before the Disney Classic, Stewart's last event.
His children contributed a set of buck teeth, one of Stewart's
favorite props in his role as practical joker. He once wore them on
the driving range and told Mark O'Meara that he had walked into the
path of someone's swing.
"I always enjoyed Payne. I never knew if he was kidding half
the time," Jack Nicklaus said after the service. "He always had a
needle out to jab, but he was having fun. He had fun when he played
golf, and he had fun when he was serious."
Chuck Cook, the teacher who helped fine-tune a relaxed, graceful
swing that was nearly as recognizable as his knickers, also spoke
at the service.
Cook recalled a trip to Pebble Beach before the U.S. Open in
1992, where Stewart was the defending champion. They went out to
the 18th hole late that night and sat on a retaining wall with the
trophy between them. Waves lapped against the shore below as they
talked for hours and sipped a bottle of Cristal champagne.
The U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach next year, without a
"There won't be a U.S. Open trophy, but there will be a bottle
of Cristal," Cook said of his plan to return. "I'm going to go to
the wall and talk to my friend about life."
On the European PGA Tour, players at the Volvo Masters in Jerez,
Spain, paused for a moment on the 18th green to remember Stewart.
"We all have been blessed by knowing and spending time with
Payne," Bernhard Langer said.
For style alone, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem compared him
earlier this week to Walter Hagen, "a player who had this bigness,
this presence about him, who dressed for the game, who brought
excitement to it."
But there was a substance to Stewart, as well.
He was perhaps the most successful player in the U.S. Open, the
toughest championship in golf, during the 1990s.
Stewart won his first U.S. Open in 1991, beating Scott Simpson
in an 18-hole playoff at Hazeltine in Minnesota, then again in June
with his historic putt at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
There were failures, too. He finished two strokes behind Lee
Janzen at Baltusrol in 1993, and lost a four-stroke lead to Janzen
at The Olympic Club last year.
"Don't worry about me, boys," Stewart said at the time. "I'll