(Reuters) - Zach Johnson, a 12-times winner on the PGA Tour who is known for his gracious demeanor and good sportsmanship, was named the recipient of the 2020 Payne Stewart Award on Wednesday.
The honor is given annually to a player sharing the late Stewart’s respect for the traditions of the game and his commitment to uphold golf’s heritage of charitable support.
“I never got to meet Payne, but I loved him,” Johnson, a two-times major champion, said in a PGA Tour news release. “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.”
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.
Prior to the establishment of his foundation, which fulfills a dream to give back to children and families in Cedar Rapids, the former Masters and British Open champion’s charity work included raising funds for victims of the 2008 Iowa floods.
Johnson will be honored on Sept. 2 during the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
“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,” said Johnson.
“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.”
Past winners of the award include Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Davis Love III, Nick Faldo and Ernie Els.
“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,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.
American Stewart, who died in a plane crash in 1999, won 11 times on the PGA Tour including three majors.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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