Payne Stewart dies in plane crash

Payne Stewart died today after the Learjet he part-owned crashed in Mina, South Dakota, killing all five people on board. The plane which may have suffered a pressurization failure, flew uncontrollably over the Midwestern United States, before crashing. The aircraft, which left Orlando, Florida earlier today was bound for Dallas.

Payne Stewart died today after the Learjet he part-owned crashed in Mina, South Dakota, killing all five people on board. The plane which may have suffered a pressurization failure, flew uncontrollably over the Midwestern United States, before crashing. The aircraft, which left Orlando, Florida earlier today was bound for Dallas.

The 42-year-old reigning US Open champion, a father of two - Chelsea, aged 14 and Aaron aged 10 - put his mark on the game right from the time he turned professional in 1979.

One of the game's great characters, known wherever he went for his colourful plus-fours, Stewart achieved enjoyed arguably his greatest-ever moment this summer.

Winner of the 1989 US PGA Championship and 1991 US Open, Stewart hit back from blowing last year's US Open by capturing the title again at Pinehurst in North Carolina, sinking an 15-foot putt on the final green to beat Phil Mickelson.

The sense of joy he felt was not only because he had won a third Major, but because it guaranteed him a fifth appearance in the occasion he loved so much - the Ryder Cup.

Stewart duly played in Brookline last month, helping America regain the trophy and earning even more friends by generously conceding defeat to Colin Montgomerie and speaking out against the heckling of the Scot.

The Florida-based player, born in Missouri and a deeply religious man, was a regular visitor to Europe and was last here only three weeks ago, representing the United States again in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews.

He was due in Spain next week for the American Express world championship at Valderrama.

Outspoken at times, but a highly popular figure who often performed in public on the mouth-organ, Stewart once donated a winner's cheque to Florida Hospital Circle of Friends in memory of his father, who had died two years earlier.

He was recently made honorary captain of Waterville Golf Club in Ireland for next year.

The club's managing director Jay Connolly said: "Payne has many supporters in Ireland and on each visit to Waterville he has won the hearts of our small village."

PAYNE STEWART FACTFILE

1957: Born Springfield, Missouri, on January 30, 1957

1979: Graduated from Southern Methodist University, majoring in Business and turns professional same year.

1979: Won the Missouri Amateur Championship, which persuaded him to make the leap into professional action.

1981: Enjoyed a profitable start to his professional career, clinching the Indonesian Open and Indian Open.

1982: Three years after turning professional, Stewart won his first PGA Tour title at the Quad Cities Open, closing with a 63 to take the title. Also won the Magnolia Classic and the Coolangatta-Tweed Head Classic in Australia.

1983: Wins Walt Disney World Golf Classic.

1987: Wins Hertz Bay Hill Classic and donates winner's cheque to Florida Hospital Circle of Friends in memory of father, who died two years earlier. Makes debut in US Ryder Cup team which was beaten for the first time on home soil by Europe at Muirfield Village, Columbus, Ohio. Represents US in World Cup.

1989: Stewart grabbed his first major victory at the US PGA, adding to an earlier victory in the MCI Heritage Classic. America fared little better in Stewart's second Ryder Cup appearance, as a 14-14 draw at The Belfry enabled Europe to retain the trophy. But Stewart left the abiding memory of the competition, splashing around on the edge of a lake as he refused to give in to Jose Maria Olazabal on the 18th hole.

1990: Retains MCI Heritage Golf Classic title, GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic. Represents US in World Cup. Shoots career low round of 61 in Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic.

1991: A year of firsts for Stewart. He clinched his first victory in Europe in the Heineken Dutch Open. He won the first of his two US Open titles, his second major. And he tasted his first Ryder Cup success at the third time of asking, as America ran out winners in the 'War on the Shore' at Kiawah Island. But Stewart was far from impressed by the attitudes of the teams, admitting: "That was too strong. In the end it's still a game of golf and if you can't shake hands with your opponents and still be friends, then you've missed the point." Stewart also won in the lucrative Skins Tournament, the first of three consecutive triumphs.

1992: Wins Hassan II Trophy (Morocco).

1993: Won the Morocco Open and enjoyed a second taste of Ryder Cup success as America defeated Europe back at The Belfry.

1995: Won the Shell Houston Open, ending a US PGA Tour victory drought of almost four years on his home circuit.

1998: Stewart was unsuccessful in terms of titles, missing his second US Open title when he was pipped by Lee Janzen at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He was also runner-up in the Greater Vancouver Open.

1999: Won Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before his third Major victory. Stewart sunk a 15-foot putt on the final green at Pinehurst to beat Phil Mickelson and notch his second US Open. Qualified for the American Ryder Cup team for the fourth time and tasted victory in a fraught battle with Europe at Brookline, Boston. Again lambasted actions of crowd at Ryder Cup, defending Scotland's Colin Montgomerie after he was subjected to verbal abuse. "He doesn't deserve that. That is not what this event is about. I don't know if he's got a big bull's-eye on his back or what it is, but it is not fair."

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