I’ve never really followed sports much – well, maybe the odd championship or two. I never had any interest in golf, but I grew up hearing the name Ballesteros over and over again, mainly associated with sportsmanship, perseverance and dedication.
I never had any personal connection with the man. I never had any emotional connection with the game of golf. Yet reading about his death as I researched this post still brings tears to my eyes.
Seve, as he was known, didn’t learn to play golf in the comfort of a golf course, but on the beach, a fact that many think was key to his success. Only every now and then, at night time, when there was a full moon, would he sneak into the golf course next to his house in Pedreña (Cantabria, in the North of Spain).
At 16, he took part in his first professional national championship (Campeonato de España) and came 20th. Two years later, he came second in the British Open, alongside Jack Nicklaus.
Ballesteros rapidly became well known and respected in international circles. Tom Kites said of him:
When he gets going, it’s almost as if Seve is driving a Ferrari and the rest of us are in Chevrolets.
He was the first European player to win the Masters in 1980 at the age of 23 – and the youngest player to win the title at that time.
During his lifetime, Seve won 87 championships but his greatest achievement was to put European golf up there with its American counterpart. It was under his leadership that the European team won the Ryder Cup in 1997. The public’s adoration of the man only grew as, unable to play himself due to his status of home ground captain, he passionately rode alongside the team in a golf cart, encouraging the rest of the team.
In 2008, Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumour, after which he set up the Fundación Seve Ballesteros, dedicated to promoting and financing brain cancer research.
On 7th May 2011, after numerous operations and chemotherapy, Seve died at the age of 54, becoming a legendary figure representing hard work, sportsmanship and decency.
To find out more about Severiano Ballesteros and his foundation, visit his official web.