Payne Stewart Award, presented every year by Southern Company to a golfer whose "values align with the character, charity, and sportsmanship that Stewart showed" has been given to Bernhard Langer celebrating his 61st birthday at the end of August 2018. The ceremony will take place on September 18 in Atlanta and televised by Golf Channel.
In his interview, Langer mentioned his close relationships with Payne Stewart; both born in 1957, they become close friends while competing in the same tournaments around the world. "We all have been blessed by knowing and spending time with Payne," - he says. Now Langer's brilliant career starting back when he was a 15-year-old boy and passing over 100 wins including becoming one of five players to win tournaments on six continents, is escalated to the highest golfers honors. Joining a roster that includes Arnold Parmer, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Ernie Els, Steve Sticker, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, David Love III, Jim Furyk, and Stewart Cink, Langer is the legend of golf.
In the 80s and 90s, Bernhard became a sensation in the game of golf. Not only a two-time Masters Champion, but he is also the official number one ranked player. In the international ballot of 2001, he was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame; won 10 major senior open championships, US Senior Open in 2010 and Regions Traditions in 2016 and 2017. In 2015, Langer became the first player since Arnold Palmer to win the Constellation Senior Payers Championship in back-to-back years. In the senior majors, he has finished 24 in the top-5 and 38 top-10 in 48 events. In total, he won seven titles.
Golf is one of the professional games that offer a lifelong commitment. "As long as you can walk, you can do it." Impossible for soccer, football, and basketball, golfers can get better over time and practice. But being the best is not enough to receive the Payne Stewart Award. The values of character, charity, and sportsmanship mean to live life always trying to do the right thing. It's not easy to play a game without "losing a head." For decades, Langer's integrity was beyond reproach.
Payne Stewart's son, Aaron, always says how little money meant to his dad. "Our generation is different. We swim in excess." Langer, born in the village of Anhausen, Germany, now the father of four children, plans to keep only a small statue of Payne Steward; a half-million dollars from Southern Company are going to Stewart's charity, the First Tee of the Ozarks, and to the Bernhard Langer Foundation focused on helping children, orphans, and widows in South Florida.
Lately, a character has not been having a good run. It's in short supply on a political stage, but in sports, the integrity of players is always under a microscope. As P. G. Wodehouse said once:
"Golf... is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well."
Due to longstanding neglect, the character has been left to philosophers and theologians. On the golf course, we can observe it first-hand. The events carry credibility because they are not anticipated or prescribed. They arrive unheralded, revealing the person's strengths, exposing vulnerabilities, unveil core convictions, divulge life values. They show a player's kindness, fairness, honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty. Those unique human qualities of a golfer are what the Payne Steward award stands for. Charity, sportsmanship, and character.
While 90 percent of the players, according to Peter Jacobsen, an American professional golfer and commentator on Golf Channel and NBC, don't "care what you shot and the other 10 percent wish it had been worse, Payne was the epitome of the opposite of all that."
Back in 2016, for his contributions, Langer was honored with his appointment as honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, created by King George V during World War I to reward services to the war effort by civilians.
"Be receiving the Payne Stewart Award, I feel extremely honored. I know there are many, many other guys that deserve it as much if not more than me, and I'm thrilled to receive it," said Bernhard Langer. Yet, it's bigger than media.
"There are far more important things in life than making a putt or missing a putt or losing a championship,"- Bernhard Langer.