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July 19th, 2008
Springfield NEWSLEADER - Clampett spreading Stewart's name

Allen Vaughan • News-Leader • July 19, 2008

Ask Bobby Clampett about his golf game and he'll tell you how he's getting his length back off the tee and how he's shedding the rust off his once PGA Tour-worthy game.

But ask him about Payne Stewart -- a figure Clampett stopped short of calling a kindred spirit -- and his eyes focus, his tone changes and his face glows.

He'll spin you the story about how Stewart took one of his U.S. Open trophies with him to media days.

He'll also tell you about how at a 19th hole bar, a fan told a knickerless Stewart he looked a lot like Payne Stewart. In return, Stewart affably hooked the fan to bet some Cristal champagne on his identity, won the bet and still picked up the tab.

And rather than focus on how he made his first professional golf cut in more than six years in this week's Price Cutter Charity Championship at Highland Springs Country Club, he'll tell you about why when he helped design the new Payne Stewart Golf Club in Branson, he did it with the idea to take those stories of Stewart and let the golfer see a round of golf like he did.

"We wanted to be a part of something bigger. Stewart was one of the true heroes in golf, and we want to honor him. There are so many stories (of Stewart). We chose the best ones, built them into golf holes and let you play a round like he would," Clampett said.

Clampett, 48, is using this weekend in the Ozarks to help people remember Payne Stewart, as well as remind himself how good of a golfer he is.

He's going to improve on both.

A first-day, 5-under-par 67 buoyed him, allowing him to dive only one stroke under par on Day 2 and still make the cut by a stroke. Clampett said he's rediscovered his game, even bombing a drive some 340 yards on No. 17 Thursday.

But the renowned golf television analyst and author has strategically placed himself in the PCCC -- only his second Nationwide Tour event of the season -- in what was supposed to be a larger-scheme tune-up for the Champions Tour. But if he can get there, he might shoot for something bigger.

"If I can get my game there, I'd like to play on the big tour. Now it's my fitness, my length, everything," he said.

But it's not like Clampett is an over-the-hill Nationwide Tour scuffler. He's the owner of 232 made PGA Tour cuts and more than $1.4 million in PGA earnings.

That's where Stewart comes in.

Clampett is quick to say the two weren't good friends, but acquaintances with many things in common: The knickers, Tour success and similarly aged children.

But just before Stewart's death in 1999, Clampett said the two bonded over innocuous lunches. As he flew back from Stewart's memorial service, he wanted to do something to memorialize Stewart.

Now he has his opportunity. The first nine holes, as well as No. 18, of the Payne Stewart Golf Club is scheduled to open in September. It's a $25 million course set up in the Branson Hills that Clampett helped design.

"We wanted to make it special and everyone that has helped has made it in Payne's memory," Stewart said.

Bob Allen, the PGA golf professional at the Payne Stewart Golf Club, is Clampett's caddie. While spreading Stewart's name and golf course throughout the Ozarks, he said Clampett's game is improving.

"He's playing great. You can tell he's a little rusty at times, but the good shots are there," Allen said.

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