Editor’s Note: Amanda Carter, a senior at Drew Charter School, attended the annual Payne Stewart Award Ceremony on Aug. 20 and filed this report as a student correspondent for Southern Company and the East Lake Foundation.
On Tuesday, Hale Irwin was honored as the 2019 recipient of the Payne Stewart Award during a ceremony at the Southern Exchange Ballroom in downtown Atlanta.
The award is presented each year by Atlanta-based Southern Company to a professional golfer who best embodies character, charity and sportsmanship. The award is given in honor of the late Payne Stewart, who had competed against and with Irwin during his career before dying in a 1999 plane crash.
“I am extremely proud of it [the award],” Irwin, 74, told me in an interview prior to the award ceremony. “But I am equally proud of all the people who helped me get here… who do not get the recognition for what they do.”
Irwin, a professional golfer who won 65 tournaments combined on the PGA Tour and over-50 PGA Tour Champions circuit, is one of just six golfers to win the U.S. Open three times. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.
When off the course, Irwin works in his community to give back to others.
While living in St. Louis, Irwin and his wife, Sally, volunteered at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for 25 years and established and participated in a charity golf tournament in St. Louis called the Hale Irwin St. Louis Children’s Hospital Golf Benefit. The tournament raised millions to benefit the St. Louis Children’s Hospital. In 1995, the hospital dedicated the Hale Irwin Center for Pediatric Hematology/Oncology in his honor. He said being around the children helped him out.
“They had such courage,” Irwin said “They were enriching. They were so strong. I felt really good about these kids.”
Along with the award, Southern Company provides a $500,000 grant each year to supports several initiatives in Stewart’s name and charities of the recipient’s choice.
This is the 19th year East Lake Golf Club has hosted the TOUR Championship, the final event of the PGA Tour season and FedEx Cup playoffs.
The first round started Thursday.
Irwin visited East Lake this week and said it is his first time stepping back on the course in years.
“Seeing what’s going on [with the East Lake community] is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “What is being done is fabulous.”