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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 20:43 GMT 21:43 UK

'A sportsman, a gentleman, a friend'

Stewart was admired by golfers all over the world

The world of golf has united to pay tribute to US Open champion Payne Stewart, killed in a aeroplane crash in South Dakota.

Ben Crenshaw, captain of this year's American Ryder Cup team, said: "All of us in golf have lost a great friend.

"Payne Stewart was a great competitor. He made friends very easily and was a very personable man, a family man, and a great, great champion.

"At the beginning of the year he had one goal in mind and that was to win a Major, and that is tough to do when you are 42. But he did it.

"He had a swing that would have lasted a long, long time."

[ image: Stewart's last appearance in the UK was at the Dunhill Cup two weeks ago]
Stewart's last appearance in the UK was at the Dunhill Cup two weeks ago
Europe's top players also joined their peers across the Atlantic to mourn the loss of one of the game's greatest ambassadors.

An emotional Jose Maria Olazabal, who as Masters champion was due to play Stewart in the Grand Slam of Golf next month, said: "I have no words to express how I feel right now.

"I played with Payne quite a few times and I always enjoyed his company.

"A true sportsman on the course and a gentleman off it, he never failed to conduct himself in the true manner."

Precious loss

Stewart was a member of the American team that narrowly beat Europe in last month's Ryder Cup.

"We all knew what the Ryder Cup meant to him, but he never lost perspective on what the match was all about," added Olazabal.

"He said that winning the Cup back last month completed his year. We have lost a precious man."

Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde said: "I'm devastated, totally devastated.

"It certainly puts into perspective little things like missed putts. My thoughts go to his family because he was such a family man. He was a wonderful sportsman and wonderful person."

[ image: He was dubbed a choker when he lost the lead in the 1998 US Open - but won it in 1999]
He was dubbed a choker when he lost the lead in the 1998 US Open - but won it in 1999
Bernhard Langer, like Stewart a devout Christian, said: "We've been friends for a long time and he's been a wonderful colleague - very friendly, very polite, very out-going.

"Every time you saw him he seemed happy and joyful and he was a man of many talents."

Ken Schofield, executive director of the European PGA Tour, said: "Tonight golf is a sad family. He was the reigning US Open champion and that's says it all. Whether he was playing in the Ryder Cup in Brookline or at The Belfry, he stood for golf's sporting values."

The US PGA Tour said in a statement that Stewart was a "very special competitor" who would be a "tremendous loss".

The statement said: "It is difficult to express our sense of shock and sadness over the death of Payne Stewart.

"This is a tremendous loss for the entire golfing community and all sports.

"Payne was a great champion, a gentleman and devoted husband and father.

"He will always be remembered as a very special competitor and one who contributed enormously to the positive image of professional golf."

Stewart was a role model for many young players, including leading English amateur Zane Scotland.

Father figure

He was offered words of advice during the Open at Carnoustie in July when at 16 he became of the youngest competitors to appear in the championship.

Zane's first recollection of Stewart was at the Belfry during the Ryder Cup, when he was 10.

"He was trying to get Payne's autograph on his cap," said Zane's father Bernie.

"Payne had walked on but turned back to sign it. I said to Zane that he should follow Payne's example in that you had nothing to lose by being nice to people.

"This year at Carnoustie we managed to arrange a small meeting at which Payne gave some good advice to Zane.

"I have nothing but admiration for him, not only as a golfer but as a man. He was a true champion."

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