RIP Severiano Ballesteros – 1957 – 2011

I decided some time ago (in fact from the start) that my blog would never be about trivia, or even things much more important than that, like relationships and family. Those latter things are the truly important things in life, and putting thoughts down here in a blog about them can firstly never capture them properly, but also is just not a medium for them. Not for me anyway. The only exception I think I have made to this is when on the eve of my trip to Kilimanjaro, I put a post up about my Mam, who had died ten years previously, and I wanted to pay tribute to her, as I was climbing Kili to (amongst other things) raise funds for Bowel Cancer, from which she had ultimately died. I say this as a bit of a precursor to this post, but not an apology for it, as I wanted to record today as an exceptionally sad and emotional day in my life, and one that I will reflect on in my future endeavours and efforts in life.

Today the incredibly sad news was announced that Severiano Ballesteros, former world no.1 golfer and five times major winner, died from Brain Cancer, after a long illness stretching from 2008. I don’t remember the last time that I cried, but that happened today. Severiano (or just “Seve” as he was universally known) was an incredible icon, inspiration, and hero to me. I was brought up with golf by my Dad, and was lucky enough to see a lot of golf from inside the ropes as a part time European PGA tour caddie during the mid 1980s. I was also lucky enough to have met him and caddied in the same group as him, when I was caddying for fellow Spaniard Jose-Maria Canizares.

I followed golf and Seve’s career quite arduosly, and having been at probably ten British Open Championships from around 1981 to 1990, he was always (alongside my other childhood hero Jack Nicklaus) the one I looked out for on the course. When Jack Nicklaus walked down the 18th fairway the crowds would roar, and give him a standing ovation for his fantastic achievements, and it made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. With Seve the crowds would follow him everywhere, which was often where he was, so wayward sometimes were some of his shots. And that was the thing about Seve – he was a marvel, a magician, a genius in every sense of the word, but he was also almost ‘human’ – he could sometimes just knock one into the trees like the average golfer. It was then what he did with it when it was there that made him so special. I remember seeing Seve play shots that I thought were impossible – he left me speechless altogether.

Seve, for the record, won 91 professional golf tournaments, including five major championships. He also has alongside Jose Maria Olazabal an unparalleled record in foursomes at the Ryder Cup, and his determination at that event simply made it what it is today, no question about it at all. I have to put the following clip in here, which is from the 1984 British Open at St Andrews, where the expression upon his face at sinking the winning putt epitomises so much of how Seve played his golf, and entertained at the same time:

I want though, to remember Seve for so much more than just his achievements in terms of golfing prowess. The following tribute, which was his Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show, is very fitting indeed, and shows the mark of the man:

Seve’s ruthless determination to win is also embodied in this quote, made I cannot remember when, but it is just him all over:

“I look into their eyes, shake their hand, pat their back, and wish them luck, but I am thinking, ‘I am going to bury you.”

For me, Seve was also the ultimate professional. It stood him above golf, and above sport. He had flair, yes; talent in abundance; drive and determination in spades. But he also had something else – he fought like a tiger, but was fair and graceful in defeat. He did anything and everything to win, and often did, but was so passionate and majestic in the way he carried himself, at all times. He transcended sport itself in fact, and made not just people who didn’t follow golf follow golf, but people who didn’t like sport at all like golf. He made them like Seve, because you couldn’t not like Seve.

He was a true gentleman, and an incredible ambassador for his country, for golf, and for life. He had passion, determination, and was and always will be, a winner.

Seve, you are my hero, the person I admire most in all of sport, and I cannot see that ever changing.

Rest in Peace.

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