Toms Garners Payne Stewart Award
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Toms: professional and charitable

David Toms added another accolade to his revival season — the 44-year-old and ’01 PGA champion has snagged his 13th PGA Tour victory at Colonial and notched seven top tens — on Tuesday at East Lake, site of this week’s Tour Championship.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced Toms as the recipient of the 2011 Payne Stewart Award. Via the press release:

David Toms, a champion both on and off the golf course, has been named the 2011 winner of the Payne Stewart Award as announced today in a press conference with PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem.  Toms will be honored during a private reception this evening as part of the festivities at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, the culminating event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.  Toms is in the tournament field this week, having survived the three previous Playoff events thus far that allow only the top 30 players on TOUR the chance at competing for the TOUR Championship trophy and, ultimately, FedExCup title.

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 the TOUR Championship in 1999.

“This is one of the best honors in golf, and I am truly grateful to be the recipient of the Payne Stewart Award,” said Toms.  “The fact that this recognizes so many different attributes is very humbling. I was fortunate enough to know Payne and play against him, and that makes this even more special.  He was great to me when I was a young player and always helped me be at ease on the golf course. I will continue to do my by best to uphold his legacy.”

Toms, a native of Louisiana, won the Junior World Championship and PGA Junior Championship in 1984 and was a First-team All-American at LSU in 1988-89.  He turned professional in 1989 and earned his PGA TOUR card for the 1992 season, but it would take him several years to establish himself as a top player.

Toms first played on TOUR from 1992-94 with lukewarm success and turned to the Nationwide Tour (then the Nike Tour) in 1995, where he won two tournaments and earned his PGA TOUR card for the 1996 season.  The first PGA TOUR win of Toms’ career came in 1997 at the Quad City Classic, and he won three more titles during the 1999-2000 seasons.

But it was 2001 when Toms’ career reached new heights.  He posted nine top-10 finishes, including three wins, and his victory at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club was the highlight.  Toms shot 66-65-65 to hold the 54-hole lead, which included an ace on the par-3 15th in Saturday’s third round.  On Sunday, Toms battled Phil Mickelson to the final hole, where Toms – with a one-stroke lead – chose to lay up short of a water hazard in front of the green after studying a poor lie.  He got up and down for par, thanks to a clutch 12-foot putt, to win his first major championship title.  Ten years later, Toms finished T4 at the 2011 PGA Championship when it returned to Atlanta Athletic Club.

Later in the 2001 season, Toms narrowly missed out on the TOUR Championship title, losing a four-way playoff to eventual champion Mike Weir.  Toms would finish third at the TOUR Championship the following year at East Lake Golf Club, one of three career top-10 finishes in the event over nine starts.

Toms won four more times between 2003-06, including a 6-and-5 victory over Chris DiMarco at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, a title he lost to Tiger Woods in the 2003 final match.  His 13th and most recent TOUR victory came this season at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial after a five-year winless drought.  Toms tied the PGA TOUR scoring record for 36 holes after shooting a pair of 62s to lead by seven strokes at the halfway point. Notably, Toms was competing in the event just days after a heartbreaking playoff loss to K.J. Choi at THE PLAYERS Championship, where Toms’ 4-foot par putt lipped out on the famous island green of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the first hole of sudden-death.

Toms has competed for the United States in three Ryder Cups (2002, 2004, 2006) and three Presidents Cups (2003, 2005, 2007).  Toms went 4-0-1 as a member of the U.S. Presidents Cup Team in 2007 and, thanks to his outstanding play this season, has qualified to compete for the U.S. Team again in November when The Presidents Cup returns to Melbourne, Australia.

Toms is dedicated to using the game of golf to give back to his community and those in need and does so through The David Toms Foundation. Toms’ foundation works with at-risk boys and girls by providing them with programs designed to enhance a child’s character, self-esteem and career possibilities.  He is currently working to develop the David Toms Golf Academy, which aims to provide underprivileged youth in the Shreveport/Bossier, La., area the opportunity to learn the game of golf and its many values. The David Toms Golf Academy is set to begin construction in 2012.

Toms was chairman of The David Toms Invitational from 2004-09, a tournament that began 19 years ago as the MCI Charity Pro-Am and raises money for the Big Oak Ranch in Alabama, a non-profit organization for children who have been abused, neglected or orphaned. The David Toms Invitational raised more than $2 million.

Toms honored his Louisiana roots by aiding his neighbors in need, post-Hurricane Katrina.  By teaming up with the Katrina Relief Fund, Toms helped raise more than $1.5 million. The Golf Coaches Association of America created the David Toms Award in 2010 in conjunction with the David Toms Foundation. The award annually honors the men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve excellence.

Toms and his wife Sonya live in Shreveport, La., and have two children: Carter and Anna.

“For years, David Toms has epitomized everything that the Payne Stewart Award represents,” said Finchem.  “From his professionalism on the golf course to his compassion for others off of it, it is hard to think of a more fitting recipient. His energy and enthusiasm to help others through the David Toms Foundation has made a tremendous difference in the lives disadvantaged youth and those impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.”

Toms becomes the 14th recipient of the award.  The inaugural Payne Stewart Award was presented in 2000 to Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.  Ben Crenshaw was the 2001 recipient, followed by Nick Price (2002), Tom Watson (2003), Jay Haas (2004), Brad Faxon (2005), Gary Player (2006), Hal Sutton (2007), Davis Love III (2008), Kenny Perry (2009) and Tom Lehman (2010).

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