Seve Ballesteros, the greatest golfer Europe has ever produced bar none – dead at 54 from brain cancer. John Niven pays tribute:
The man hadn’t really played competitive golf in nearly fifteen years, his career cut short by back problems, so to try and explain his appeal to younger players today you’d soon be reaching for contemporary comparisons: maybe the golfing talent of peak-era Tiger Woods combined with the swashbuckling charisma of Ian Poulter. Or, as he won his first major at the age of 22, and was, until Tiger, the youngest player to win the Masters you could think of Rory McILroy without the choking.
It’s all straight out of a bad Hollywood script: born poor in northern Spain Seve started playing with just one club; a homemade three iron. Unable to afford the nearby private golf course he taught himself to play any shot with one club from dirt roads, beaches and farmland: skills that later in life made unthinkable shots routine for him.
Seve reinvented the Ryder Cup and made Europe a force in it once again. He was hugely popular in Britain, to the extent that crowds here would cheer him over homegrown talent; as I witnessed myself when my Dad took me to see the 1982 Open in Troon. Seve later said ‘I am so grateful to Great Britain. They mean so much to me.’ It was more than mutual Seve. We’ll miss you. Meantime remember him this way…