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Gary Koch named recipient of the 2023 Payne Stewart Award

For Gary Koch, Monday likely will go down as better than most.

In recognition of his character, sportsmanship and commitment to charitable giving, the six-time PGA Tour winner and former NBC Sports golf commentator best-known for his celebrated “better than most” call, has been named the 2023 recipient of the PGA Tour’s Payne Stewart Award presented by Southern Company.

“To be honored with this award and to think that people may think of me in the same vein as Payne Stewart is truly unbelievable,” Koch said. “When you’re recognized by your peers for something you’ve accomplished and how you treat people, it means a tremendous amount. I would say this is the highlight of my career.”

Koch will be honored on Tuesday, August 22, at the Payne Stewart Award Ceremony in conjunction with the TOUR Championship. The ceremony will be televised live on Golf Channel as part of a “Golf Central” special from 7-8 p.m. ET at the Southern Exchange in downtown Atlanta.

Gary Koch during the second round of the 2011 Cleveland Golf Srixon Scottish Senior Open at the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews in Scotland. (Photo by Phil Inglis/Getty Images)

“From a decorated amateur and professional playing career to his legacy as a broadcaster, where his voice and commentary became the soundtrack of so many memorable moments in PGA Tour history, Gary Koch is the epitome of what it means to be a Payne Stewart Award recipient,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Today, Gary continues to show his passion and character through his dedication towards making our game more welcoming and accessible to the next generation in the Tampa area. We are thrilled Gary will join the list of Payne Stewart Award winners who – through golf – have achieved greatness, inspired others and impacted lives.”

The Payne Stewart Award is presented annually by the PGA Tour to a professional golfer who best exemplifies Stewart’s steadfast values of character, charity and sportsmanship. Stewart, an 11-time winner on the PGA Tour and World Golf Hall of Fame member, died tragically 24 years ago during the week of the Tour Championship in 1999.

Koch, 70, was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but calls Tampa, Florida, home. As a player, Koch burst onto the scene with his unlikely victory in the 1969 Florida Open as a 16-year-old amateur. One year later, he won the 1970 U.S. Junior Amateur at Athens Country Club and later decided to pursue his collegiate career at his beloved University of Florida. Once in Gainesville, Koch became a four-time All-American, won 10 collegiate titles, and helped lead the Gators to victory in the 1973 NCAA Championship.

After joining the PGA Tour in 1976, Koch collected six career victories in his 15 seasons, including the 1984 Arnold Palmer Invitational, which Stewart won three years later in 1987.

Gary Koch drives from the seventh tee during the second round of the 2005 Blue Angels Classic in Milton, Fl. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Koch spent 33 years with ESPN and NBC Sports calling some of the game’s greatest moments, including Tiger Woods’ iconic putt at the 17th hole at the 2001 PLAYERS Championship, where he delivered the famous “Better than Most…” call that still reverberates through the tournament’s history.

As an on-course reporter for NBC during the 1999 Ryder Cup, Koch was assigned to the Singles match between Stewart and Colin Montgomerie. Following the match, which ended with Stewart conceding a long putt to Montgomerie in an act of sportsmanship, Koch spoke to Stewart for what was one of his final live interviews before his passing one month later.

Koch and his wife, Donna, have two daughters, Patricia and Rachel.

As part of the award, $300,000 is donated to a charity of the recipient’s choice. Koch has chosen to direct funds to the Gary and Donna Koch Family Foundation, Gift of Adoption’s Florida chapter, and First Tee – Tampa Bay. The Gary and Donna Koch Family Foundation was launched in 2014 to help fund scholarships and student aid in their community, and to date the Kochs have awarded scholarship dollars to 20 First Tee graduates.

Koch’s support of Gift of Adoption’s Florida chapter will buoy their mission of providing adoption assistance grants to complete the adoption of children in vulnerable circumstances, giving them permanent families and a chance to thrive. Koch has served as the honorary chairman of the organization’s annual fundraising event for the past 17 years.

Much of Koch’s charitable focus has been geared toward the junior and amateur game, where he has helped provide a platform for the next generation of golfers to reach their potential. In 2011, Gary and Donna stepped in to support their local First Tee – Tampa Bay chapter when it was in dire need of financial assistance and on the brink of closure. Koch rallied together a group of supporters called the “Friends of First Tee Tampa” to help provide the necessary funds to keep the chapter going. Eight years later, First Tee – Tampa Bay was recognized as the largest chapter in the country in certifying participants and annually reaches more than 90,000 youth in the area.

The momentum at First Tee – Tampa Bay has continued, with Koch in 2022 proposing the idea to build a par 3 course at the local First Tee facility that can be better utilized by younger First Tee participants. Koch enlisted golf course architect Steve Smyers – his former college teammate – to design the course. Smyers waived his design fee.

Koch also hosts the annual Gary Koch Invitational Pro-Am at Old Memorial Golf Club to support both First Tee – Tampa Bay and ART International Training & Research, with the latter being focused on supporting those who suffer from PTSD and other psychological traumas.

For more than 20 years, he hosted the Gary Koch Intercollegiate, a mainstay on the college golf circuit that saw several future PGA Tour stars compete against some of the best college teams in the nation. And with the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship taking place down the road from Koch’s home in Tampa, his involvement with the Copperheads has helped drive additional charitable funds for various local charities. Koch was named Copperhead of the Year in 2021 in recognition of his volunteer work.

Koch is the 26th recipient of the Payne Stewart Award, joining a distinguished group of respected golfers including Billy Andrade, who was recognized in 2022, and the inaugural recipients Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (2000).

Other recipients include Justin Rose (2021), Zach Johnson (2020), Hale Irwin (2019), Bernhard Langer (2018), Stewart Cink (2017), Jim Furyk (2016), Ernie Els (2015), Sir Nick Faldo (2014), Peter Jacobsen (2013), Steve Stricker (2012), David Toms (2011), Tom Lehman (2010), Kenny Perry (2009), Davis Love III (2008), Hal Sutton (2007), Gary Player (2006), Brad Faxon (2005), Jay Haas (2004), Tom Watson (2003), Nick Price (2002) and Ben Crenshaw (2001).



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