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June 13th, 2009
Paynes son gives approval of new course

By Pat Dailey
Sports Editor
Branson Daily News

Perhaps no one’s first impression of Payne Stewart Golf Club mattered more to club pro T.J. Baggett than Stewart’s son, Aaron.

Aaron played the course for the first time this past weekend during the course’s grand opening. He was one of 80 players that took part in the first tournament to be held at the course.

Aaron is a long ways from the 10-year-old we all wanted to hug nearly 10 years ago, when Payne was killed at age 42 in a plane crash in South Dakota. Aaron became a national figure early in his life, after millions watched his father’s death play out on TV. The subsequent mourning and funeral were also lead stories not only on sports pages and sportscasts, but also on front pages and newscasts.

In addition, Stewart’s 1999 U.S. Open win came on Father’s Day.

Aaron is now 20, believe it or not, and playing golf at his father’s alma mater, SMU. He had an average round of 76.0 for the Mustangs this year.

Aaron’s playing partner on Saturday was Payne’s godfather, Jim Morris.

Their reviews were all good.

“They raved about the course,” Baggett said.

Aaron has certainly been around a few exceptional tracks. He grew up in the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Isleworth, Fla. Among golf’s fraternity who were acquaintances were next-door neighbor Stuart Appleby, Tiger Woods, Mark O’Meara, Lee Janzen and Charles Howell III.

Next week, Aaron and SMU will debut the Payne Stewart Golf Learning Center at the Dallas Athletic Club.

As Baggett and a crowd of about 1,000 listened to an Eagles Tribute Band, Take It To the Limit, perform on Saturday night, he related the course’s grand opening couldn’t have gone much better. The day’s events were all open to anyone who stopped by and were free.

“It was a great day that went off without a hitch,” Baggett said. “The comments from everybody have been good. Everybody is enjoying the course.”

That’s a sentence actually worth repeating in regard to the fact everybody can play the course.

“There seems to be a little bit of a perception in town that we are a private club,” Baggett said. “But of course everybody can see we are open to the public.”

Baggett estimated 1,200 people were fed barbecue poolside over the course of the day and 500 took part in a putting contest. A tennis exhibition was also held.

“We were able to highlight all the amenities of the club,” Baggett said.

More first impressions of the club are sure to be made at a couple events later this month.

On Monday, the course will host 180 players in the Skaggs Classic presented by CenturyTel. It will include an auction highlighted by a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe.

On June 28, half of the third-round play of the Branson Invitational will be held at the course.

“We’re very excited to be part of the rotation for that event and to show the rest of the country what a great golf destination Branson is,” Baggett said.

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