'Crashing' the green and into Payne Stewart
It was back in the days when Merrill Lynch sponsored the "shootout" on Wednesdays before the Heritage golf tournament. In 1991, I was a young 24-year-old sales assistant working in the local office and was asked to drive a cart for two elderly gentlemen with Merrill Lynch from New York. I was the driver and these two gentlemen were seated on the back of the cart facing backward. I was excited yet very nervous as I would follow the sound cart through the back nine on this beautiful day. All of the players were on microphones during this shootout, so it was fun and comedic. The golfer with the worst score on each hole of the back nine was eliminated.
When we were on the 12th hole of the back nine of the Ocean Course, everyone had teed off. I followed the sound cart and parked by the ropes on the right side of the fairway. Of course no matter where I parked, I made the gallery angry because I was in someone's way so I did the best I could to get out of the way.
Suddenly, I heard one of the players say, "Excuse me miss, you are on my ball." It was Payne Stewart and his ball was immediately behind my cart. I didn't drive on it, just over it. "Well, what's it doing over here?" I said with a red, embarrassed face. Payne Stewart and the entire gallery burst into laughter, although as I turned my head my boss and his boss and so forth didn't seem to be laughing.
When I attempted to move the cart in my flustered state, I backed the cart into a nearby tree. Remember, there were two elderly, very important people with my company on the back facing the tree. They laughed, the gallery laughed and, of course, Stewart laughed. I didn't laugh. Stewart was eliminated on this hole (to my dismay) and said on microphone to all: "Oh, well. Just give my money to the cart girl and the Arbor Society."
From then on I was laughing and carrying on with the players the rest of the back nine that day. The two gentlemen riding with me adored me and said, "This is the best time we have ever had riding in the cart here." When the shootout was over, we were at the clubhouse for a reception and one of the PGA Tour employees came to me and said that Payne Stewart was giving a golf clinic downstairs and asked if I would like to meet him. I said, "No thanks, I already met him enough!"
But I changed my mind and went down to see him. When Stewart saw me he yelled out, "Crash!" and gave me a big hug. My general manager's wife was there and took our picture and sent it to me. Not long after that, I had a manager from another office take the picture to another tournament in Memphis to have it signed by Stewart. When Stewart was handed the photo, he once again yelled "Crash!" and signed it.
What a wonderful person Payne Stewart was. I was stunned as so many were the day he passed in that horrible plane incident.
Kristin Brantley Dixon