What have we learned in the years since to warrant a new book about Stewart? Not much. But milestone anniversaries of high-profile tragedies don’t pass unnoticed, and Kevin Robbins’s The Last Stand of Payne Stewart: The Year Golf Changed Forever does a fine job of connecting Stewart’s life, death and final year of golf with a broader theme—the transformation of pro golf from the feel and finesse game Stewart grew up with to the athletic, high-tech power game it is today. The book’s subtitle is a stretch. Golf didn’t 'change forever' in 1999 or any other single year ... Through interviews with Stewart’s longtime caddie, Mike Hicks, his golf coach, Chuck Cook, and others, Mr. Robbins delves convincingly into the agonizing nitty-gritty of what it takes to miss one less fairway per round, convert one more up-and-down and make one more crucial putt—the tiny improvements that spell the difference between winning a tournament and finishing in the middle of the pack. The deeper drama of Stewart’s maturation from an essentially decent but unfocused puppy dog of a man into a reflective, well-liked veteran at peace with himself is less effectively told ... Mr. Robbins compensates with informed speculation that sometimes veers into the melodramatic. He hammers hard on the notion of a spiritual quest, peppering the narrative with talk of fate, redemption, salvation and Stewart’s 'personal state of grace.' Despite these occasional excesses, the arc of Payne Stewart’s story is inspiring.
In terms of biography, there isn’t much new here, especially compared to Ken Abraham and Tracey Stewart’s Payne Stewart: The Authorized Biography. What differentiates this work from others are Robbins’s descriptions of how Stewart straddled two different eras in golf ... Only worthwhile for those who haven’t read the earlier volume by Abraham and Stewart.
Sportswriter Robbins...delivers a riveting and heartbreaking biography of celebrated golfer Payne Stewart ... Robbins focuses on the final year of Stewart’s life while expertly weaving in biographical details ... In his powerful closing chapters, Robbins explores the memorials and remembrances for Stewart ... This excellent biography is sure to please many a golf aficionado.