The surprising news that had Zach Johnson in tears

Zach Johnson tears

A recent Zoom call brought Zach Johnson to tears.

A recent Zoom call with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan brought Zach Johnson to tears — and the reason might surprise you.

When Johnson logged in for what appeared to be a scheduled call, he was immediately surprised to see both Monahan and the late Payne Stewart’s children, Chelsea and Aaron.

“Wait a minute,” Johnson says. “What is going on here?”

As Chelsea greets Johnson, his confusion grows — it’s clear he thought he was joining the call for something else. Then, it all starts to come together for him.

“Now I know why you wanted to be in here!” he exclaims, presumably to his wife, who is unseen in the background. “Oh, my gosh.”

As Johnson puts the pieces together and figures out what’s about to happen, he covers his eyes with his hat, emotions taking over even before Chelsea speaks.

“Zach, on behalf of my mom, Aaron, and our entire family,” Chelsea begins, “We are so excited to let you know that you’ve been named the 2020 recipient of the PGA Tour’s Payne Stewart award, presented by Southern Company, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

“I don’t have … ” Johnson says, trying to collect himself, his voice breaking. “Thank you guys. I’m absolutely speechless.”

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The Payne Stewart award was established in 2000 after Stewart’s tragic death in 1999, and is given annually to a player with characteristics that Stewart valued, liked sportsmanship and a dedication to charity. Past recipients include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Ernie Els.

“I remember very distinctly through the years looking out at this award and seeing you,” Monahan says. “And seeing you in different seats in that room, but seeing you on so many occasions at the ceremony and being deeply touched by your peers that had ascended to this award.”

“Guys, I am so humbled, honored, and absolutely just floored right now,” Johnson says. “I’m in awe. I’m shaking. I’m physically shaking.”

The Payne Stewart award is traditionally given on the Tuesday evening of Tour Championship week, and Johnson has fond memories of the first time he attended.

“I remember going to the Tour Championship in Atlanta my rookie year and going to the awards ceremony and I was like, oh my gosh, this is the pinnacle of a PGA Tour player’s career,” Johnson says. “It’s what you’re supposed to do, how you’re supposed to utilize the gifts you’ve been given, this is it.

“I don’t like being in the limelight a whole lot, but in this regard I hope I can at least be a small little nugget of his legacy.”

Before the conversation ends, Johnson struggles to convey how deeply he is touched to be this year’s recipient.

“For me, and my family, because … ” Johnson pauses to compose himself. “For all the many people that have helped me, thank you very much.”

You can watch the entire video below.


As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on