Branson, Mo.—Eighteen years and running the late Payne Stewart is still proving that character and a good golf swing go hand-in-hand. Members from the golf elite gathered in Atlanta to pay homage to a man whose legacy continues through the Payne Stewart Award. The PGA TOUR and Southern Company on September 22, recognized Ernie Els – a four-time major champion – as the recipient of the 2015 Payne Stewart Award. Els is also champion to many for something other than golf—his dedication to families with autistic children.
According to pgatour.com, “In 2009, Els and his wife, Liezl, established the Els for Autism Foundation shortly after their son, Ben, now 12, was diagnosed with autism, a disorder that now affects 1 in 68 children. Els has used his high-profile platform to both help raise awareness of the disorder as well as funds to build a world-class Center of Excellence focused on positively impacting those on the spectrum and their families.”
In addition to a sculpture by Bob Pack presented to the recipient, the Payne Stewart Award is accompanied by an annual Payne Stewart Award Grant made possible by Southern Company. The grant supports several initiatives in Stewart’s name and is distributed to Payne and Tracey Stewart’s primary charity, The Stewart Family Foundation, and The First Tee Program located in Missouri at Kids Across America, a Christian athletic camp specifically geared toward urban youth.
Every year at the KAA Payne Stewart Memorial and golf complex, hundreds of young people pick up drivers, woods, irons, wedges and putters for the first time as part of the First Tee Program. Mark Parry oversees the golf lessons there and hopes to pass on to the young people that same passion for the game that Payne Stewart had. He also incorporates character lessons and Biblical principles into each session.
“The KAA Kamp experience introduces campers, many for the first time, to the great game of golf at the Payne Stewart Memorial Complex,” says Parry. “There is nothing like watching a kid’s eyes when they connect with the ball the first time or sink that 20-foot putt. Payne would love to be a part of those experiences with these kids.”
For more information on the Payne Stewart Award, please go to www.pgatour.com and for more information on the KAA Payne Stewart Memorial and First Tee Program, visit http://kaakamps.org/payne-stewart-memorial.html
(Kids Across America got its beginning in 1978 and is a non-profit organization that provides a Christian summer camp experience for disadvantaged urban youth. The mission of Kids Across America is to build Christian leaders by encouraging, equipping, and empowering urban youth and their mentors through camping and education. The KAA vision is transforming urban youth to impact their communities for Christ.)