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Kenny Perry wins 2009 Payne Stewart Award

Kenny Perry is the 2009 winner of the Payne Stewart Award, given annually to a "player sharing Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct."In other words, the award goes each year to one of the PGA Tour's good guys. Stewart was killed 10 years ago in a plane crash on the week of the Tour Championship, and since then the winners have been Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (2000), Ben Crenshaw (2001), Nick Price (2002), Tom Watson (2003), Jay Haas (2004), Brad Faxon (2005) Gary Player (2006), Hal Sutton (2007) and Davis Love III (2008).For more on Perry, read Alan Shipnuck's profile from Sports Illustrated. For more on Stewart's tragic death, read this story from Sports Illustrated.The complete text of the press release from the PGA Tour is below:

PGA TOUR veteran Kenny Perry, a champion in every sense of the word, both on the golf course and in the community, has been named the 2009 winner of the Payne Stewart Award as announced today in a press conference with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. Perry will be honored during a private reception this evening as part of the festivities at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, the culminating event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2009, the Payne Stewart Award is presented annually to a player sharing Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct. Stewart, an 11-time winner on the PGA TOUR and World Golf Hall of Fame member, died tragically the week of THETOUR Championship in 1999."There is no greater honor for a professional golfer than to receive the Payne Stewart Award," said Perry. "Payne personified all the virtues the game of golf can teach us, so being recognized as a person who is worthy of an award created in his memory is incredibly humbling. This award is and will always be one of my greatest accomplishments."With 14 PGA TOUR titles to his credit, including two victories in 2009, Perry, 49, epitomizes the saying "good things come to those who wait." A PGA TOUR member since 1986, Perry won three times in his first 14 years on the PGA TOUR. However, since turning 40 in August 2000, Perry has won 11 times, highlighted by a five-victory stretch over the last 16 months. Perry's two victories in 2009 came on the heels of a career season in 2008 in which he won three times, finished 15th in the final FedExCup standings and made his second-career Ryder Cup appearance in his home state of Kentucky.A native of Franklin, Ky., and member of the Western Kentucky University and Kentucky Golf Halls of Fame, Perry began playing the game at age 7, and giving back to the game that has been so kind to him is an important part of his life off the golf course. Winner of the 2002 Charles Bartlett Award, given to a professional golfer for his unselfish contributions to the betterment of society by the Golf Writers Association of America, Perry donates five percent of his winnings to a scholarship fund at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., for students from Simpson (KY) County.A resident of Franklin, Ky., Perry was concerned in the mid-1990s that there was no public golf course in the community. In 1995, Perry bought 142 acres of land and borrowed more than $2.5 million to design and build Country Creek Golf Course, an affordable public facility that caters to mid-to-high handicappers.In celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Payne Stewart Award, we can't imagine a more deserving recipient.

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by Kevin Cunningham