4 Months After This Golfer Won The U.S. Open, His Jet Failed To Respond – With A Deadly End Result

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Image: Gary Newkirk /Allsport

On October 25, 1999, the Oklahoma Air National Guard dispatched a group of F-16 fighters to intercept a private plane that was flying way off course. In fact, the twin engine Learjet business aircraft was supposed to have landed in Dallas, but it was now somewhere over Oklahoma state, cruising at 45,000 feet and seemingly on auto-pilot. Its crew could not be contacted on the radio.

Image: Doug Pensinger / Staff

Among the plane’s passengers was Payne Stewart, a champion golfer with 24 professional titles to his name, with three majors and 11 PGA Tour events among them. Stewart had a place in the Official World Golf Ranking top ten and, thanks to lifetime winnings of $12,673,193, sat third on the PGA Tour’s all-time earnings list. So, by any measure he was a world-class player.

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Image: Alan Wilson

Headed to a tournament in Dallas, Stewart’s plane had left Orlando, Florida, at around 9.00 a.m. Although he part-owned the Learjet, he’d originally intended to use a commercial airline to travel to the city. However, some golfing colleagues persuaded him to use the jet instead, insisting it was safer. Nothing could have been further from the truth, however…

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