Billy Andrade got awfully emotional upon learning he’d won the Payne Stewart Award
To appreciate how deeply touched Billy Andrade is to be the latest recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, which was announced this morning at the New York Stock Exchange, all one needs is to see how his eyes welled with tears describing the moment he received the news.
Two months ago, at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, his adopted hometown, Andrade had just come off the golf course where he and fellow Atlanta resident Stewart Cink host their annual charity pro-am when PGA Tour representatives approached him. A request was made for a sit-down interview, but first they asked Andrade to shower and change, and Andrade admits that he was befuddled by the all the formalities.
“We’ve hosted that event for 12 years,” Andrade, 58, recalled, “and I thought, ‘Why all this attention now?’”
Next came an appeal for a tour of the clubhouse and the locker rooms. Andrade played along, but kept looking at his watch. He had 200 guests waiting for him for a post-round celebration. When he turned the corner into the Champions Locker Room, he saw his wife Jody and his son Cameron sitting in the room. His parents, John and Helen, were there, too. They were all smiling. Jody pointed to a large monitor to her right. Tracy Stewart, Payne’s widow, and the two Stewart children, Aaron and Chelsea, greeted him.
Andrade’s eyes get watery at the memory of that moment because that’s when he realized what all the fuss was about. “It was one of the coolest moments of my life,” Andrade said, sniffling. “And I was an emotional wreck for about three to four days after. To receive an award like this, when you think about all the people that have been honored, it sort of leaves you speechless.”
The Payne Stewart Award is presented annually to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s values of character, charity and sportsmanship. Previous winners of the award, created in 2000, include many of the game’s greats, led by an inaugural class of Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Justin Rose was last year’s honoree. Stewart died in a Learjet crash in 1999 just months after winning his third major title and second U.S. Open.
Andrade, the 25th recipient of the award, will be honored during the week of the Tour Championship at East Lake at a ceremony on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the Southern Exchange in Atlanta. Golf Channel will televise the ceremony during its Golf Central program from 7-8 p.m. EDT.
Andrade’s playing career has spanned five decades on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions since he graduated from Wake Forest in 1987, where he attended on the Bud Worsham Scholarship created by Arnold Palmer and was instrumental in helping the Demon Deacons rally to the 1985 NCAA Championship.
A native of Rhode Island, Andrade joined the PGA Tour in 1988 and broke through for his first two titles in back-to-back weeks in 1991. He added two more tour wins and then won three times on the PGA Tour Champions, all in 2015. He also has seven other wins in his pro career, including three in the CVS Health Charity Classic, a team event he hosted with fellow Rhode Island native Brad Faxon for 23 years starting in 1999.
“I'm just a survivor. I’m a grinder, and I have no regrets,” Andrade told Golf Digest. “I had a blast, and I learned from the greatest players in the world who made sure I had great practice rounds with great players and Payne Stewart Award winners like Jay Haas and Peter Jacobsen, who took me under their wing and gave me great advice.”
Another of those players was Stewart. “Payne was ... he was a character. He took me under his wing as ... I think it's because he liked me, and maybe because he saw a lot of me in him when I first got on the tour.
“I'm standing here today saying that if you keep an open mind and you ask a lot of questions and you learn, you’re going to get better when you’re playing with the best all the time,” Andrade added. “I had ups and downs in my career, but I played a long time, so I must have done a few things fairly well.”
Shortly after his 1991 victories in the Kemper Open and Buick Classic, Andrade and Faxon joined forces to create the Billy Andrade/Brad Faxon Charities for Children, Inc., which has raised more than $25 million for children in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, mostly through hosting the CVS Health Charity Classic. A few years earlier, in 1987, Andrade’s wife Jody was among the wives of PGA Tour players to start the PGA Tour Wives Association, a charity organization that primarily benefits children’s organizations.
“Jody and I got involved early in the charity end of things, and it’s just blossomed over time,” Andrade said. “And then Faxon and I started doing some charity stuff in Rhode Island, and then we started a foundation there, so the charitable side was just kind of starting to ... like, you could see it making a difference. You say to yourself, ‘Hey, you know what? This game can open doors and make a difference in a lot of ways.”
“For years, Billy’s tireless dedication to causes that benefit the well-being of children has exemplified what we at Southern Company call being ‘bigger than our bottom line,’” said Southern Company chairman Tom Fanning, whose company sponsors the Payne Stewart Award with a $500,000 charitable grant. “His contributions to Atlanta, Rhode Island and numerous other communities make our world a better place through providing access to health care, education and social services for the children and families who need it most.”
The event that Andrade and Cink host, called the East Lake Invitational, benefits neighborhood revitalization efforts of the East Lake Foundation. It’s fitting that Andrade learned of his Payne Stewart Award nomination at the storied club and that he will receive it during the Tour Championship when it wraps up its current season at East Lake. His name will appear on a plaque in the clubhouse along with the other Payne Stewart Award recipients.
“It’s very special in that regard, no doubt,” Andrade said. “I don’t know how I’m going to keep it together when the time comes. I’m going to be on a list with some of the greatest players to ever play the game, and to be seen as sharing the same values … character, sportsmanship … it’s just overwhelming.”