The Great Spaniard: Severiano Ballesteros

Awhile back I put up an article on holidaying in Turkey, with a hint towards doing one on Spain. In researching this, for Spain and Spanish Golf – the sunrise, the sun and beaches, warmth, the country’s vast other natural virtues – I quite happily, and naturally enough, came upon a few articles featuring the great Spaniard: Severiano Ballesteros.

As all know, for the past year or so Seve has been battling for his life, a challenge he terms as ‘his sixth major.’ He’s undergone four operations to date, with several chemo and radiotherapy courses. These were performed to remove the tumor in his brain, and also to reduce swelling. He fell ill the previous October, in 2008, after briefly losing consciousness at the Madrid airport. He’s still sick. He’s lost most of his sight in his left eye. But by all accounts he’s doing fairly well, considering, and he is getting better – Thankfully.

Just weeks ago, Seve was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, and justifiably so. His impact on the game, on uplifting European golf from the late ’70’s through the 80’s, is/was immeasurable.

Not only that, he was thrilling to watch!

He had that distinctive, big booming swing that was all-out, which looked also like it could topple him. And his shots from there, off the tee, were known for veering off course. Often he was in among the gallery, not as Palmer might, stepping over to the ropes voluntarily to press a few palms, but by necessity: a good percentage of his tee shots flew over there and other fairways. So it was fun for those of us watching to see how he would, and quite creatively at times, get out of those situations.

But his record, in a quite successful career, speaks for itself:

He turned pro at 16. At 19 he contended very well in a major, tying Jack Nicklaus for 2nd at the Open. In total, he won five majors – three Opens Championships, and two Masters. He won tournaments round the world, and was ranked Number 1 for 61 weeks between ‘86 and ‘89.

This next summer, at St. Andrews, the Open Championship is celebrating its 150th anniversary. A special event is being held (they did it in 2000, as well) in which 32 previous Open winners have been invited to play a four-hole Champions Challenge match.

Seve Ballesteros is invited and has vowed to attend. It’s likely his farewell from the game will take place at St. Andrews and therefore break the hearts of his legions of fans. Heart-wrenching as it will be to see Seve there and retiring, it will be a moment in golf history not to be missed.