Kerry's golden memories of Stewart

Tim Glover finds a small corner of Ireland is feeling a particular loss

Some Americans have trouble in identifying their neighbouring states, let alone the world outside their continent. Payne Stewart differed from the rank and file of professional golfers in that he adopted a more cosmopolitan outlook. Hotel room service was for somebody else.

Some Americans have trouble in identifying their neighbouring states, let alone the world outside their continent. Payne Stewart differed from the rank and file of professional golfers in that he adopted a more cosmopolitan outlook. Hotel room service was for somebody else.

He was particularly fond of the traditional courses in Scotland and Ireland, and struck up a close relationship with Waterville in Co Kerry on the stretch of coastline known as the Ring of Kerry. Waterville, an old fashioned links, was bought by a group of Irish-Americans in 1987 and was recently chosen by Stewart and his neighbours in Florida, Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara, as a stopover en route to the Open.

Two years ago it worked brilliantly for O'Meara who went on to lift the old claret jug at Royal Birkdale. Stewart never won the Open, although he came close on several occasions, but he took the US Open twice, and the US PGA once.

Last July, Stewart, Woods, O'Meara, David Duval, Lee Janzen and Stuart Appleby accepted an invitation from the Irish entrepreneurs JP McManus and Dermot Desmond to stay at Waterville, a village with a population of 450. According to the Book of Invasions , written about AD1,000, the grand-daughter of Noah landed in Ballinskelligs Bay after the Flood. Ever since, through the laying of the first trans-Atlantic cable and the arrival of Charles Lindbergh, Charlie Chaplin (Geraldine Chaplin lives in the village), and Henry Cotton, Waterville has continued to provide a link to the Kingdom of Kerry and a discreet watering hole for select members of the jet-set.

"They were at ease there and they could truly relax," Jay Connolly, the managing director of Waterville, said. "Payne was so outgoing and the people appreciated his visits. A warm relationship developed. There was a local tragedy, the circumstances of which were almost as bizarre as Payne's death. During a storm, a wall collapsed, killing one brother and seriously injuring another. The boy who survived lost both legs and when he came out of hospital he was met at his home by Payne and a few of the boys."

Apart from playing Waterville, Stewart and company also tackled the Old Head of Kinsale (where the Lusitania was sunk) and Ballybunion which hosts the Irish Open next year. "It was his first visit to Ballybunion and he had a hole in one at the third," Noel Cronin, the secretary of Waterville, said. "He had a memorable day - when he came back he caught a salmon." At the nearby Butler Arms, the Americans entered into the spirit. "We get into the pub and get round a piano," Stewart once said. "I bring out my harmonica and the next thing you know it's about 4am."

At an informal ceremony on the eve of the Ryder Cup at Brookline near Boston last month, Stewart accepted an offer to become honorary captain of Waterville for the millennium and was presented with an engraved fishing rod. The club has no intention of appointing anybody else and Stewart's name will be added to the honours board in the clubhouse. "There was a unanimous vote to bestow this title to Payne," Connolly said. "It was the first time in the history of the club that an honorary captain was named. We will now have to think of a fitting memorial."

Stewart, who was born in Springfield, Missouri, in 1957, had been a distinctive figure in golf for two decades. There were his trademark plus twos and a contract with the National Football League to wear the colours of its teams. After turning professional in 1979, he failed to earn a US Tour card at the qualifying school. His first professional title was the Malaysian Open in 1981. He won the Indian Open the same year and it was while in Asia he met his Australian wife Tracey Ferguson.

His first victory in America was the Quad Cities Open in 1982 but his third did not arrive until 1987. That year he made his debut in the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village in Columbus, Ohio, where Europe won on American soil for the first time. It was played on a course developed by Jack Nicklaus who was also the US captain.

"Losing there was not nice and Jack tore into us," Stewart said. "He told us: 'You guys just don't know how to win. Look at you, Payne Stewart. You make all this money on tour but how many tournaments have you won? Why don't you win more?' I'll tell you, that speech was good for me." Two years later, Stewart won his first major, the US PGA at Kemper Lakes, Illinois, and in 1991 took the blue riband, the US Open at Hazeltine.

Stewart, who became a born-again Christian, was twice runner-up in the US Open, but last June, at 42, gained one his most satisfying victories. A stroke behind Phil Mickelson with three holes to play in the final round at the classic Pinehurst he sank a putt of 18ft to win at the last.

When he made his fifth appearance in the Ryder Cup last month, he distanced himself from the general hysteria that marred a marvellous US recovery. Stewart conceded his singles match to Colin Montgomerie on the final green and had asked stewards to evict American spectators who were heckling the Scotsman.

Stewart, who was due to appear at the American Express World Championship at Valderrama this week, had also planned to return to Waterville next July in preparation for the millennium Open at St Andrews. It was at the home of golf that he finished runner-up to Nick Faldo in the Open of 1990.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee