Saturday, 7 May 2011

Adios Seve

Many younger readers will never have seen the Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros at his peak. They may well have seen Seve linked to by video link looking like an old man unable to move very much on Sports Personality of the Year from time to time.

However what that man could do with a golf club was unbelievable at times, bold and outrageous but always spectacular when he was on his game. He won the Open three times 1979, 1984, 1988 and The Masters twice 1980 and 1983 (the first of which made him the youngest ever winner until Tiger Woods won his first). He still holds the record 50 wins on the European tour as well as 41 other career wins.

In 1976 aged just 18 he burst unto the scene at Royal Birkdale, leading The Open at the end of day three but ending up tied with Jack Nichlaus two shots behind Johnny Miller. Three years later he won including a shot from the car park to still birdie the 16th at Royal Lytham and St Annes. It was the first win at a major by a player from continental Europe since 1907 and he was the youngest winner of The Open in the 20th Century.

In the Ryder Cup he scored 22 1/2 points out of his 37 matches between 1979 and 1995. He was one of the first from continental Europe to play against the USA when the tournament expanded beyond GB and Ireland in 1979. But it was the all Spanish pairing with José Marie Olazábal that is the most successful in the tournament's history. 11 wins, 2 halves and only 2 defeats from their 15 starts together. In 1997 as non-playing captain his exuberance flooded around almost every shot that was being played as he encouraged his fellow Europeans to retain the Ryder Cup

He had had back problems from the late 90s that limited his ability and he official retired from the game in 2007. Although he had been nowhere near his best for years.

In October 2008 he was taken gravely ill to hospital in Madrid, there he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent a series of emergency operations. He was discharged from the hospital in December and made his first public appearance after that in June of 2009. Yesterday sadly his family announced that Seve's neurological condition had "suffered a severe deterioration", he died within hours of that announcement this morning.

In tribute as they say too often on reality TV these days, Seve here are some of you best bits.

Severiano 'Seve' Ballesteros Sota 9 April 1957 – 7 May 2011

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