Last week Jay Kossoff spent each workday watching home movies.
Kossoff is no idler toiling in the devil's workshop. A senior
producer at The Golf Channel, he had roughly three weeks to
prepare a 90-minute documentary on the late Payne Stewart. "Is
three weeks enough time?" asked Kossoff, who was watching film
and video that Payne's widow, Tracey, had delivered to the
channel's Orlando studios from her home at the nearby Bay Hill
community. "We gave ourselves one year to do a two-hour special
on Arnold Palmer."
When the 100th U.S. Open begins at Pebble Beach on Thursday (NBC,
3 p.m., and ESPN, 5 p.m.), the presence of reigning champion
Stewart (right, holding the 1999 winner's trophy) will enshroud
it like a Pacific fog at daybreak. He perished along with five
others in an almost surreal air crash last Oct. 25, with TV news
channels covering the inexorable path of the ghost plane to its
tragic end. Human nature and TV news and sports shows' ravenous
appetites for programming dictate that this week the airwaves
will be awash with retrospectives on Stewart. However, only The
Golf Channel, whose special will premiere on Monday at 8 p.m.,
will have exclusive interviews with Tracey and the Stewarts' two
children, Chelsea, 14, and Aaron, 11. It also has exclusive
rights to the 12 hours of home movies showing everything from
Payne quarterbacking his high school football team in
Springfield, Mo., to his clownishly parading in a woman's
one-piece bathing suit.
"We weren't the biggest TV channel to pursue this story," says
coordinating producer Paul Farnsworth, who with Kossoff has
interviewed more than 50 subjects since early last month, when
Tracey decided to give The Golf Channel total access to the
Stewart family and its memorabilia of the golfer. "But we had a
relationship with her. It was trust, really."
On the day that Payne died, as friends and family gathered to
console Tracey, the television at the Stewart home was tuned to
The Golf Channel. Despite her shock and grief, Tracey took note
of the coverage and was so impressed that two days later she
asked if the channel would be able to supply a retrospective
video for her husband's memorial service, which was to commence
in less than 24 hours.
"It wasn't like cramming for a final," says Kossoff, who worked
overnight with video editor Pat Devlin to produce the five-minute
piece. "It was a final. We handed it in at eight that morning
without even looking at the finished product."
Quite coincidentally, that effort has paid dividends. "I watched
those home movies with Tracey," says Kossoff. "She smiled a lot
that day. You know what's funny? As pressed as we are to get this
documentary done in time, we're begging the network to push it
from 90 minutes to two hours."
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Tracey Stewart's trust has led to The Golf Channel's airing the home movies of her late husband, Payne.
There is no stopping
All the dreaded treys he shoots.
Give up East, go home.
Reggie not Regis
Millions want to be a champ
Reggie wins a ring.
--Two entries in REGGIE'S HAIKU CHALLENGE, issued by
www.reggiemillerdirect.com. As of Sunday the site had gotten
more than 10,000 submissions. The grand-prize winner, to be
chosen by Miller after the Finals, will get an autographed pair
of Reggie's sneakers.