In acknowledgement of his character, sportsmanship and dedication to charitable giving, Zach Johnson has been named the recipient of the PGA TOUR’s Payne Stewart Award presented by Southern Company. Johnson will be honored on Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Payne Stewart Award Ceremony in conjunction with the TOUR Championship. The ceremony will be televised live on Golf Channel as part of a “Golf Central” special from 7-7:30 p.m. ET at the Southern Exchange in downtown Atlanta.
The Payne Stewart Award is presented annually by the PGA TOUR to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship. Stewart, an 11-time winner on the PGA TOUR and World Golf Hall of Fame member, died tragically 21 years ago during the week of the TOUR Championship in 1999. Southern Company, the “Official Energy Company of the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR Champions,” was the TOUR Championship sponsor the year of Stewart’s passing. A year later, the PGA TOUR created the Payne Stewart Award in his honor, and Southern Company has supported the annual presentation since its inception.
The past winners have all distinguished themselves through their respect for the game, the TOUR’s tradition of charity and their ability to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
“I never got to meet Payne, but I loved him,” Johnson said. “I loved how he played the game certainly as a competitor but then how he lived his life off the golf course – he’s the model. I remember going to the TOUR Championship and the Payne Stewart Award Ceremony my rookie year and thinking, ‘This is the pinnacle of a PGA TOUR player’s career.’ It’s about how you utilize the gifts you are given, and I know Payne lived that way.
“I am deeply grateful and honored. I don’t like being in the limelight a whole lot, but I hope in this regard I can at least be a small piece of his legacy.”
Johnson, 44, was born in Iowa City, Iowa, but was raised 30 miles north in Cedar Rapids where he took up the game as a 10-year-old. He honed his skills at nearby Elmcrest Country Club, which now hosts the annual Zach Johnson Foundation Classic.
Though Johnson and Stewart never met, the two are well-connected on the golf course, and more specifically on the greens. Johnson employed the same SeeMore FGP putter that Stewart used to win the 1999 U.S. Open for all 12 of his PGA TOUR wins, including his most recent title at the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews.
“Zach Johnson as the recipient of this year’s Payne Stewart Award is a testament to the impact Payne made on many of our contemporary players who never had the chance to meet him in person,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “Zach would say he’s just a normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but in truth, he has one of the most compelling stories on the PGA TOUR in the last 25 years, a fearless underdog who has carved out an incredibly successful career through hard work and dedication to his craft.
“Off the course, his commitment to charity through his Foundation has made an indelible impact in Cedar Rapids and throughout Iowa where he is a state-wide hero. The PGA TOUR is thrilled to add his name to what is an illustrious list of the game’s ambassadors.”