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Irish Memories Of Stewart

FOTA ISLAND, IRELAND | It is quite rare on the international golfing calendar for the Irish Open to come directly after its more illustrious, American brother. In fact, the last time it went back-to-back with the U.S. Open was in 1991, when the transatlantic focus of the golfing cognoscenti moved from Hazeltine National to the Killeen Course at Killarney.
Irish observers watched the Monday playoff with more than a passing interest, given that it had Payne Stewart pitted against Scott Simpson. And at a time when it was the policy of sponsor Carrolls to enhance their fields by paying appearance fees to high-profile American players, Stewart was their top attraction for 1991.
So it’s not difficult to imagine the sense of excitement and anticipation when he became U.S. Open champion for the first time. Then came the gnawing anxiety as to whether he would make the considerable sacrifice of postponing celebrations so as to undertake the long trip overseas. Reasonable observers were of the view that his withdrawal couldn’t have been considered a shock, especially given persistent twinges from a back problem that caused him to miss The Masters earlier that year.
We were later to discover that the decision was never in doubt. From Minneapolis, Stewart flew home to Florida and within hours was en route to Shannon with his wife, Tracey, and daughter, Chelsea, where they arrived on the Tuesday morning. And when the hero of the hour disembarked from a helicopter close by the Killarney clubhouse a few hours later, he addressed the burning issue before it was even raised.
“There was never any question of making a late withdrawal because of things at Hazeltine,” Stewart said. “Long before I won the U.S. Open, I had an arrangement with Carrolls and there was no doubt about me coming here.”


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