Stricker Named Payne Stewart Award Recipient


On Tuesday at the site of this week's Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Steve Stricker was named the 2012 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award.

Originated in 2000, the award is given annually to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support, and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.

Previous recipients include Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (2000) followed by Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, Tom Watson, Jay Haas, Brad Faxon, Gary Player, Hal Sutton, Davis Love III, Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman. Last year's recipient was David Toms.

On Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem along with the CEO of Southern Company, Tom Fanning, met with the media to make the announcement of Stricker as the recipient of the award named after the late Stewart, who was killed in an airplane accident in 1999 at the age of 42. Here's what they had to say.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us on this rainy afternoon, what has become a tradition here at the Tour Championship by Coca Cola, to announce the recipient of the Payne Stewart Award for 2012. With us today we have Tom Fanning, President, Chairman and CEO of Southern Company who presents the award, as well as Commissioner Tim Finchem. I'll turn it over to Tim for a few remarks and we'll unveil our winner. Tim?

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Laura. Thank you for being here this afternoon. What's going to happen this evening is one of the real fun things we do during the course of any year. Over the last 12 years, 14 different players have been recognized for the Payne Stewart Award, which really stands for sportsmanship, comportment, preparation, giving back, conducting yourself well on the golf course and off.

As a consequence, making a significant contribution to the image of the PGA Tour, which, as we said many, many times, is our number one asset. I'm delighted that Tom Fanning is with us today, because Southern Company has been so helpful in bringing this award along. I know that I'm going to ask Tom to speak here in just a few minutes, but our recipient today is an individual who represents all of the things that we just talked about, and without further adieu, I'd like to introduce Steve Stricker to come out and join us.

So, why Steve Stricker? I think as we'll talk about this evening at the actual presentation, there is a committee made up of leaders of golf here and around the globe who along with the previous recipients of the award, provide input on who they think should be recognized as an individual who fits the criteria that I just alluded to. Certainly Steve Stricker does that, and let me just first comment on Steve as a player.

Steve has won a dozen times on the PGA Tour, most of all of that since he was 40. He is just a few years away, maybe, from playing some on the Champions Tour, but he continues to be a top player, evidenced by the fact that he's in the top 30 here this year. He was just picked by Davis Love to be part of the Ryder Cup team next week in Chicago. He is an incredible impacter of what's going on right now, which is the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup.

He and Hunter Mahan are the only two players in the history of the Cup that have played in every single playoff event. In Steve's case, he's finished top 10 ten times. He's won twice, and he's become known as Mr. Fall. Along the way he has excited fans here and all around the world with the way he's handled those wins and the way he's handled himself in those competitions. And we're delighted that the committee came to the conclusion that Steve should be recognized.

Before we hear from Steve, I want to ask Tom to talk, because the Southern Company - I don't know if everybody knows this - has really a true and full partner of what this award is all about, and I'll just mention two things. One, they fund what is a solid grant for good causes, that Tom will talk about. But the other is that we actually have come to rely on this presentation and recognizing the character of a Steve Stricker in reaching out to our young players about what the PGA Tour is all about, what PGA Tour golf is all about, and to the broader audience, the Southern Company through exposing and explaining to fans around the country what this award is about, has made it a bigger and bigger thing, which helps us in our mission as well. So Tom, we appreciate your partnership and fire away.

TOM FANNING: Thanks, Mr. Commissioner, and congratulations, Steve. What a wonderful day. We're thrilled to be here. We're thrilled with our association at the PGA Tour. Southern Company is one of the leading electric utilities in America. When you think about what we do every day, we make, move, and sell electricity; and the way we do it is to provide to our customers every day, clean, safe, reliable and affordable sources of energy that drives the economy, drives our ability to create jobs and really sustains this important part of America.

But so much of what Southern Company stands for is not the whats of what we do, but rather the hows. We have this abiding commitment to be bigger than our bottom line, to make the communities better off because we're there. And it's that value that I think we share with the PGA Tour. We have been a long time sponsor of the energy provider of the PGA Tour. I think as a celebration of that, we have been for 13 years the sponsor for the award of the Payne Stewart Award, which we think is given to golf's greatest ambassadors. And this year we are particularly honored to celebrate the achievements of Steve Stricker, which I think stands for everything that we would hope a recipient would get. So, Steve, congratulations.

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Steve, with that, we're going to hold off on the actual conveyance of the award until this evening. But we know our friends in the media wanted to have an opportunity to hear from you prior to that. If you'd share some thoughts with us, and we'll turn it over to a few questions.

STEVE STRICKER: Sure. Thanks, Tom and the Southern Company and the PGA Tour. This is - I'm going to cry already. It's a very humbling and an honor that I never thought would be possible. I'm very fortunate, very blessed to be a part of this. Again, I'm really blown away that I'm even here, so I appreciate it, and I'm not really looking forward to tonight because I have to get there up and give a talk, and if I'm struggling already. But, no, seriously, it means a lot. Payne has meant a lot to this game. We can get into how I really know Payne. I really never knew him all that well, but I had some run ins with him, and good run ins with him and got to know him a little bit. But he was a remarkable man and one that I looked up to in a number of different ways. Again, very humbled and very honored to be sitting here and receiving this award.

Q. You've won a lot out here. You've won comeback Player of the Year. We've seen you cry after a victory. What is the emotion from that you're displaying today about winning this award?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, that's a good question. Golf obviously means a lot to me, but the way I think I've tried to conduct myself over the years and try to set an example, lead down the proper road, lead by example, and Payne did that. The guys that have won this award prior to me have done that. Those guys stand for what Payne was and what kind of person and what kind of player he was. To be thrown in that group of guys in that list of players is, like I say, something that I never had even thought about. Yes, so I think it's important to me. Not only playing good golf, but the way you conduct yourself as a professional and go about your work out here on a daily basis. Like I say, to be part of that group is really special to me.

Q. What is your first memory of Payne, whether it was in person or on television or whatever?

STEVE STRICKER: Probably my very first memory of Payne is growing up watching him on TV. The one that sticks out in my mind the most, I think, a couple of things. I think it happened at the same event at Bay Hill when he kissed his daughter through the fence, if anybody remembers that, and then going on to win that tournament. I think it was 1987 when I was looking back through his bio and his records and everything. But he went on to win that event and donating his whole winner's check to a local hospital there in the Orlando area. In '87 I was going to Illinois at the time, probably a sophomore at the time, just seeing somebody donate $106,000 right after you won the tournament to a charity stuck pretty firmly in my mind. Yeah, I think those couple things struck me right away.

Q. What about you personally?

STEVE STRICKER: I played with him my rookie year on Tour in '94. I can't even remember where we played. But I can remember him struggling, and he wasn't very happy with his game. I think he was struggling as we all do as players. You struggle with being out here, being on the road, with your game, being away from your family, and I think he had a pretty poor year that year in '94. I was able to see that. It was not only that time in '94 playing with him, but it was what he had done then the next year in '95 when he came back, and then the years leading up to, obviously, the win at the U.S. Open in '99. But he came back.

So I was able to see that first-hand how the guy struggled, and how he rededicated and refocused and got all his priorities right it seemed like. How a guy like that was able to come back and how to do it. I actually thought about him quite a bit when I went through my own struggles. So it's ironic in some ways that I was able to see that in Payne in '94, but then to apply it to myself during my struggles in the mid 2000s.

Q. I remember Nicki kind of questioning your position in the world rankings at one point. Just that you maybe shouldn't have been that high. Can you talk about what were her thoughts?

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, she was extremely excited and I was too. Yeah, she gives me a hard time, but all in good fun. But, you know, again, it truly is an honor. I don't know what else to say except it's really a position that I didn't think I'd be in. So when Tim called this in the summertime I sat here listening to him on the other end and I had tears in my eyes just like I have now, so it's pretty cool. Again, I don't know why I have these emotions, but it means a lot. It really does. I'm just very thankful and honored to be here.

Q. Good luck tonight.

STEVE STRICKER: Yeah, I've tried to talk to Tim to say maybe we could have a little question and answer period, you know. And I may ask him again, because it's not going well right now (laughing). I did take stage fright, speech communication in college, and I've got some issues right from the start, I think. But, no, we'll fight our way through it tonight. Again, it's nice to be here and it's very humbling.

MODERATOR: Congratulations again, and enjoy tonight. Thank you gentlemen.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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