The iconic Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst was a labor of love

On the 25th anniversary of Payne Stewart’s U.S. Open victory, two integral figures reflect on the creation of golf’s most famous statue.

The post The iconic Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst was a labor of love appeared first on Golf.

On the 25th anniversary of Payne Stewart’s U.S. Open victory, two integral figures reflect on the creation of golf’s most famous statue.

The post The iconic Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst was a labor of love appeared first on Golf.

This year marks 25 years since the late, great Payne Stewart’s U.S. Open win at Pinehurst, a victory that — thanks to its down-the-stretch drama, which featured beeper-clad, expectant father Phil Mickelson going toe-to-toe with Stewart, who immortalized himself in golf lore by draining a 15-foot birdie putt to seal the victory, capped by an iconic fist-pump — was an instant classic.

Even if you weren’t alive to see the putt in person, perhaps you’ve replicated Stewart’s celebratory fist-pump seen ’round the world: left leg planted, right leg raised and splayed, a forward lean, right arm extended in ecstasy. Dubbed “one moment in time,” Stewart’s 18th-green revelry took on new meaning when, just four months later, he was one of four passengers and two pilots who died in a plane crash.

Stewart’s pose was enshrined in bronze by sculptor Zenos Frudakis, and dedicated two years after Stewart’s death. It was a fitting tribute to one of the game’s most beloved players, and has since become arguably the most famous statue in golf.

Among the key contributors to the statue’s creation was Stephen Cryan, who was then Pinehurst’s director of retail and today is general manager of Longleaf Golf & Family Club in nearby Southern Pines.

“Pinehurst’s history was a very important part of my responsibility and what I did,” Cryan told me by phone. “I was kind of a caretaker of building our physical history, our history on the hallways and all those type of things.”

Finding a way to commemorate Stewart’s achievement was a must; Pinehurst’s leadership decided on a statue. At the time, Pinehurst already had two statues on property: one of course designer Donald Ross and another of Pinehurst founder Richard Tufts. The latter was sculpted by Frudakis, who agreed to also take on the Stewart project.

“We wanted everything to look and feel as authentic as that moment could,” Cryan said. “The idea was that statue would be placed adjacent to the 18th green so Payne would always be looking over all the golfers that ever came down in Pinehurst and were creating their own ‘one moment in time,’ and they would be able to look over and see Payne.”

“One moment in time” was a natural theme for the statue, but capturing that feeling proved challenging for Frudakis.

“Even though it’s called ‘One Moment in Time’ with Payne Stewart, it’s not one moment,” Frudakis told me the other day. “It’s one moment the way humans see a moment, in the sense that we don’t stop something like a photograph does. We see a couple of things. Over a second we might see a different motion. I wanted to get a sense of motion.

“The other thing about this, this is a triumph pose. It’s a triumph figure. It’s ecstasy and triumph. That’s really something that I think people relate to.”

Zenos Frudakis’ concept sketches for the Payne Stewart statue. Courtesy of Stephen Cryan

Frudakis began working on the statue in the summer of 2000. To make it as authentic as possible, Cryan assisted in gathering replicas of every item of clothing Stewart wore that day, from his trademark plus-fours and cap to his SeeMore putter, shoes and rain jacket, the sleeves of which Stewart had cut himself.

Part of Frudakis’ creative process is to learn as much about his subject as he can; he studied up on Stewart by reading his biography.

“It directs me,” Frudakis said. “I have ideas, and it gives me a feeling about the person. It goes in my ears, it goes through my brain, and it comes out my fingertips into the clay. In Stewart’s case, he inspires people. It’s not just golfers, with his life. It’s very rewarding to be able to feel like I’m a little bit part of history in creating this. Almost like a biographer, creating a visual biography.”

Stewart’s facial expression proved to be the most difficult part of the project. After several revisions — and a sign off from Stewart’s wife, Tracey, whose approval was sought every step of the way — the statue was ready to make its debut.

A process photo of Zenos Frudakis’ work on the Payne Stewart statue. Courtesy of Stephen Cryan

“People ask me, ‘How long did the Payne Stewart sculpture take?’ I don’t remember when I finished it,” Frudakis said. “But whatever I was at that time, I’d tell them that age. That’s how long it took, because it’s a lifetime up to that point. It’s not the year or two that one spends on it; it’s all the years of study and all the other experience with sculpture.

“It can be frustrating to try to push pieces and to elevate them to the level I think they could be. Because life is so precious. I’m not just making another sculpture of a person. I don’t want to make objects. I want to make works that embody profound thoughts, feelings, poetry that people can experience over time.”

“One Moment in Time” was dedicated in Pinehurst on November 7, 2001, nearly two years to the day after Stewart died. Tracey and the couple’s children were there for the dedication.

Sculptor Zenos Frudakis poses with the finished statue. Courtesy of Stephen Cryan

“As you get older in life, there’s certain things that are kind of highlights of your life,” Cryan said. “And one of the highlights of my life has been having the honor of just being an integral part of this. I’m sure you could tell by the passion in my voice that I was involved in all aspects of this statue. And so when we finally dedicated it, we needed to make sure that every detail was right.”

In the years since the dedication, Stewart’s legacy lives on in many ways, including through Pinehust visitors, many of whom revel in striking the Stewart victory pose alongside the statue, which both Cryan and Frudakis said gives them great pleasure.

At this week’s U.S. Open, Stewart’s statue has been moved from its customary spot behind the 18th green to the course’s main entrance, to make it more accessible to fans.

“My heart’s a little broken,” Cryan said, “because a part of the dream was for Payne to always be looking over the winner on the 18th green. And that won’t be the case. But his legacy and his life from 25 years ago is probably honored in a greater way by many people. And that iconic statute is the number one picture for visitors here at the Pinehurst. And it’ll be the number one picture taken at the championship. So that’s the one thing that will continue.”

One moment in time, for 25 years and counting.

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