THE TRIBUTES flow for Seve Ballesteros, five time Major winner and an inspirational figure in world golf.
The Spaniard died on the weekend aged 54 following respiratory failure three years after he underwent a series of operations to remove a brain tumour.
The tributes of his peers perhaps speak best for an amazing career.
First, from a number of his contemporaries courtesy of the US Champions Tour
“What he did for European golf was what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf. The European Tour would not be where it is now if it were not for Seve. His allegiance to the European Tour was admirable. I mean the guy was an icon; just an incredible golfer. I’ve always said most of us could shoot 65 in about 30 or 40 ways. He could do it about 10,000 different ways. He could miss every fairway, chip in five times, hole two bunker shots…what a sad day today. He was so creative around the greens. It didn’t matter if there was a tree or bunker, he’d figure out a way to get up and down. He and I had a great duel at Royal Lytham in 1988. It was a great day for each of us. I remember the seventh hole he made an eagle right on top of me. I remember after we played that hole that one of us was going to win because we were both playing so well that day and neither of us was going to back down. He was always very kind to me. Whatever you may have heard about him, his love for the game and his competitiveness was something I learned so much from. I don’t want to say I idolized the guy but I respected him so much for the way he played the game because he could play the game like very few people. He really did. He had that beautiful smile that used to win over the hearts of all the women. He was just an incredible personality; a huge asset. I think all of us who played with him or spent any time with him are the richer for it.”
“It’s a horrible deal. Seve played golf with a passion like no one else. He was an amazing golfer who did a lot of things for the game of golf. To lose his life at such an early age is sad. At the Masters dinner this year Jose Maria got up and talked and gave an incredible talk about reminiscing about Seve and talked about growing up and idolizing Seve. It was very heartwarming. His desire to win; his fight and the ability to create and play shots was reminiscent of Palmer and Watson. He had a flair for the game that was quite amazing and that will always be remembered.”
“He was a great inspiration. To be around him and play with him the few times I did I just wish he had played in the United States a few more times. The people in the U.S. never really got to see Seve as the real magician and creative person he was on the golf course. He played the game like nobody else and sometimes from places nobody else did, but he didn’t care. He was one of the first players to show that you didn’t have to hit it on the button every time to score if you had imagination, touch and an eye and feel for the game you could score. You can’t teach that. You have to have that ingrained. With the way equipment is now, shots like his would be going straighter and would be easier to do. There won’t be another Seve Ballesteros. He was a great innovator and he changed the thinking of the game. He showed you could be really good without hitting it like Ben Hogan every time.”
“He was such a big part of the game and a big part of my life as well as most of us out here on the Champions Tour. He was a guy you didn’t forget in more ways that one. I say that with a smile on my face. I don’t remember going head-to-head in a tournament but we did in the Ryder Cup. He was the backbone of the European Tour for so long. Seve was their (European Tour’s) Arnold Palmer. We embellish the truth about things a lot of times but it is the absolute truth. They certainly have a lot more memories than we do of Seve but that was a big part of it. Seve loved the stage and that was the part of being Seve. He played with a lot of emotion and he was in his element and he thrived on the competition of the Ryder Cup.”
“He was one of the best players in the era in which I played. There were very few players who you could simply call by a name like Arnie, Jack or Lee and know who exactly it was. He was one of those guys. He was a name all around the world. His skills were maybe unmatched by anybody. His short game skills around the green were unbelievable. I marveled at that. I saw him hit a bunker shot one time from a buried lie and he sounded like he hit it thin and it comes out with spin on it and it stopped on a dime. I asked him how he did it and he wouldn’t tell me. I understand and that was part of the mystique and the fence between the American players and Seve. I always thought Seve was one of the great shotmakers in our game and one of most colorful players I’ve witnessed in my career. He had the magnetism that drew people to him. I played with him in the last round of the ’79 British Open and I’m leading and I watched the guy hit three fairways all day and win the British Open. It wasn’t because he was lucky; it was because he created some shots that were unbelievable. As sad as I was, I look back and scratch my head and say ‘how does he do it’. It wasn’t an accident or luck; it was a skill factor he had.”
“He always treated me really well; very kind. He was always a competitive guy and I always appreciated that he would say something nice and offer encouragement. He didn’t have to do that but he did. We played in the Ryder Cup in 1995 and I remember the heart he had. He hit it all over the map but his short game was just magic. He kept himself in the match through 10 or 11 holes. Nobody could have done it with the places he hit it that day but he did. I always say it was the best nine holes I’ve ever seen on the front nine. He shot even par or something. I would have shot probably been 9-over. He had a great feel for the game. He never really seemed to doubt his ability and that is what makes a champion.”
“I don’t think I ever beat the guy. He was, you know, he was unbelievable really. You know, kind of what I would call the modern day Phil Mickelson, or he was Phil back then. He was just the best imagination, the best short game, you never really knew where he was going to hit it. I thought he had a great swing. I think I played him twice in the Ryder Cup and of course he was always with Jose Maria. Pretty sure I never — I never beat him in a match. But yeah, you never know, you know? It’s too bad. He was certainly awesome and really a very charismatic, everything. Everybody loved watching him, for sure.”
“It’s a very sad day for golf. Seve was a great inspiration for not just European players but also American players. He was iconic as far as Spanish sports stars were concerned. He was the first major sports star to come out of Spain and that country has been a fantastic breeding ground for soccer, tennis and golf ever since. I was very friendly with Seve. Like what Arnold Palmer brought to the PGA TOUR, Seve brought to the European Tour. I have so many memories of Seve but the one that stands out happened in Switzerland. One of the greatest shots I ever saw was when he played a shot at the 18th hole at Crans su Serr in the Swiss Open to eventually win. He was behind a wall and hit something like a 4-iron or a 2-iron from an 8-iron distance from the hole and he cut it around the wall. People who can remember the shot know exactly the type of shot he hit there. He was the original get-out-of-jail artist.”
And from a range of others:
“”I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Seve Ballesteros. I always enjoyed spending time with him at the Champions dinner each year at the Masters,” said Woods on his official website.
“Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”
“It’s a sad day, lost an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today.
“He was a game-changer. To come from where he did and do what he did was amazing.”
GONZAGA ESCAURIAZA (president of the Spanish golf federation]
“Severiano Ballesteros has been an example of genius, determination and perseverance throughout his life. It is our duty to remember his achievements… because he has left us an extraordinary legacy.”
HOWARD CLARK (Former Ryder Cup teammate)
“We are looking at a top artist — the king of European golf, if you like, for many years. Everybody drew another breath when he played — it was like watching a masterpiece.”