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Hal Sutton receives Payne Stewart Award

Hal Sutton was honored Wednesday with the Payne Stewart Award, and he encouraged every golfer to find the balance in life that Stewart demonstrated before he was killed in plane crash almost eight years ago.

Sutton became the 10th player to win the award since it began in 2000, when Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were the first recipients. It is given annually to a player who reflects Stewart's respect for golf traditions, his charitable work and presentation in dress.

His widow, Tracey, and daughter Chelsea, a senior at Clemson, were at the ceremony on the first tee at East Lake Golf Club.

Behind the grandstand was the 18th hole, where Sutton in 1998 saved par from a deep bunker to force a playoff with Vijay Singh, then beat him with a birdie on the par-3 closing hole.

Sutton, who choked up after talking about Stewart and his family, recalled searching for balance in his golf swing on the eve of the 1998 Tour Championship, and only later realizing he didn't have balance in his life.

They had a young daughter and his wife was pregnant with twins, and Sutton said all he thought about was winning the tournament.

"I had to walk away from golf on my terms to figure it all out," he said.

Sutton won 14 times in his career, including the 1983 PGA Championship in a duel against Jack Nicklaus and the 2001 Players Championship that came down to the wire against Tiger Woods. He was Ryder Cup captain in 2004, when the United States was soundly beaten by Europe and Sutton was criticized for pairing Woods and Phil Mickelson.

"To achieve at a high level, you have to lead a self-centered life," Sutton said.

He last played a PGA Tour event at Riviera in 2006, but has kept plenty busy opening a children's hospital in Shreveport, La., raising money for Hurricane Katrina victims and building a golf course. These last few years have taught Sutton that his identity does not have to come through golf.

His message to young players?

"Don't be so self-serving," he said. "Think of others as you walk through life, because sooner or later you're going to need them."


September 13, 2007

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