Payne Stewart wins the Bay Hill Classic…the 3rd win of his career
On this day, In 1987 Payne Stewart ended a three year winless drought to win the Bay Hill Classic. Stewart at the time was a resident of Bay Hill and owned a golf villa right off the 12th hole. In the book, The Payne Stewart Story, Larry Guest writes that
“In the middle of every round of the 1987 BayHill Classic when they arrived at the 12th hole, Stewart would kiss his daughter Chelsea through the fence for luck.” And it worked! He won with a confident final round of 65, six under par. Stewart donated the entirety of his $108,000 winning check to an Orlando Hospital to build a cancer ward in his fathers memory.
It had been a long three years for Stewart, which included the passing of his father. But the win at Bay Hill was a big push in the right direction for the 30 year old. Stewart explained to the press,
“It’s a load off my brain. Three years of patience is a lot of patience, but it paid off.”…”I don’t want to play for second out there, I know what second is.”
-Payne Stewart after his 1987 Bay Hill win
Stewart’s final round of 65 was impressive but not as much as his third round tally of 63. Stewart was deadly accurate with his irons and used his vast home course knowledge to navigate the Bay Hill layout. On the final day, He and South African David Frost were virtually in a two man race without another player within 6 strokes of them. Payne, sometimes known for “not closing” on leads, kept this one, and Frost didn’t have a chance to catch him.
Payne’s victory was somewhat overshadowed by a man who finished tied for 29th place. Don Pooley, used a 4 iron and aced the Bay Hill 17th hole. Int he newspapers they were labeling it, “The Richest Shot in Golf History”. The hole in one was worth $1,000,000 and Pooley received half, while the other went to a local hospital.
Stewarts next victory came in 1989 at the MCI Heritage Classic where he won by five strokes and shot a 268, -16 under par. At this time he was gaining recognition for being one of the most consistent golfers on tour. Between the 1987 Bay Hill triumph and the MCI Heritage, Payne finished in the Top-10 a total of eighteen times.