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[ VIEWPOINT ] TOUR TALES & TRUE

Grant Dodd
zebra. He doesnt reason with it. He tries to hold its head underwater until it stops wriggling. There was no shot too difficult for him to visualise, no copse of trees too thick to manufacture a shot out of. Consequently, he played with little fear, attacking golf courses with abandon, fortified by the knowledge that his mercurial short game was gilt-edged insurance against any indiscretion. It was stunning, entrepreneurial golf of the rawest form. Ben Crenshaw, no short-game mug himself, observed that, Seve plays shots that I dont even see in my dreams. I played with Seve once, in a practice round during the 1995 Alfred Dunhill Championship in Hong Kong. It was an ignominious introduction. I became so entranced by a conversation with the great man on the sixth hole that I forgot my golf clubs, leaving them 250 metres behind on the tee. Embarrassing moments aside, what I remember most was a bunker shot played on the par-5 ninth hole. Seve had short-sided himself on the downslope of the greenside trap. To add to the challenge of the moment, he was playing out of grainy, stony sand to a tight pin with the green sloping away from him. Im not sure that I could have kept it on the green. Needless to say, I was more than interested to watch what he could conjure up from his mythical bag of tricks. He made a pass at it like Tiger teeing off with a driver on a par 5. The ball came out in slow motion, seemingly on time delay, spinning like a whirling dervish. It landed a foot over the lip, took one bounce and stopped on a dime six inches from the hole. I turned to playing partner Peter Lonard, and appreciative, raised eyebrows met simultaneously. Words were unnecessary. From such moments legends are born. In this instance Seves was merely further entrenched, laser-etched into the cortex. Capturing the essence of a personality like Seve stretches the boundaries of objectivity, perhaps more so in eulogy. Like most geniuses, he was a complex amalgam of factors and influences. Emotional, passionate, often thoughtful, sometimes dark and brooding. Free of spirit, competitive, enigmatic; and theyre just the things we freely assume about him from observing his publicly presented identity. But try to capture it we should. True greatness is deserving of such commemoration. In sadness, and respect, vale, Senor.

Clockwise from left: Another vintage Seve escape; holing the winning putt at the 1984 British Open at St Andrews; a fresh-faced teenager in 1976; Seves style was more about artistry than precision; Being congratulated by Hale Irwin after winning the 1979 British Open.

Remembering golfs eternal artist

Peter Alliss used to say I hit miracle shots. I never thought that. Miracles dont happen very often; I was hitting those shots all the time. Seve Ballesteros
Id hazard a guess that few who read this column will be unaware of the recent passing of Seve Ballesteros. One of the all-time greats of golf, and possibly the most charismatic, the Spaniard has left behind a considerable legacy and more fans than he could ever have imagined. Call it charisma, or je ne sais quoi, or what you will, but Ballesteros had an oversupply of something that set him apart. When he walked on the course he created a buzz. He infused the atmosphere with electricity and created the anticipation that magic was a possibility. Despite his game going south in the latter years of his career, an inherent, pied piper-like magnetism remained until the very end. Dead at 54 years young, he patently still had much to offer to a modern game crying out for personality and differentiation. Seve announced his arrival to the golf world at The Open Championship in 1976. Displaying an outrageous sense of imagination and bravado, he saved par in ways that left observers speechless. This cavalier approach was to become the basis of his golf identity. Commentator Jim Murray had this to say of Ballesteros: He goes after a golf course like a lion at a

Through the years with Severiano Ballesteros


April 9, 1957: Severiano Ballesteros Sota is born in Pedrena, Spain. 1964-65: Learns the game using a cut-down 3-iron on the beach near his home. Late 1960s: Seves brother, Manuel, gives him his first set of clubs. Seve would win a caddie tournament in Pedrena at age 12. March 1974: Seve turns pro at age 16. October 1974: Finishes fifth in the Italian Open, his third event on what would later become the European Tour. July 1976: Finishes second to Johnny Miller at the British Open. 1977: The back injury that would end his career first flares. Wins the Uniroyal International Championship in June, ignoring doctors orders to alleviate back pain by resting and sleeping on a wooden plank for two months. 1977-78: Serves 18-month tour of duty in the Spanish Air Force. April 2, 1978: Wins the US PGA Tours Greater Greensboro Open, one week before his 21st birthday. October 1978: Announces he will not play for Spain in the World Cup because there isnt enough money involved, saying he was a professional and not interested in just honour and glory. July 1979: Wins British Open, saying it did not cause much of a stir in Spain. September 14-16, 1979: With continental Europeans now eligible for the Ryder Cup, goes 1-4 in the first of eight matches he will play. April 13, 1980: Wins Masters. June 13, 1980: Disqualified from US Open for missing his second-round starting time. June 1981: Resigns from European Tournament Players Division in dispute over appearance fees. He would rejoin the tour in August but didnt play in the Ryder Cup that autumn. April 11, 1983: Wins second Masters. June 1983: US PGA Tour will not waive regulations to allow him to be a member and play fewer than 15 events. July 22, 1984: Wins British Open at St Andrews. 1985: Doesnt play 15 events in the US and is suspended for 1986 by US PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. April 27, 1986: Moves to No.1 on the World Ranking for the first time. April 19, 1987: Wins Suze Open in Cannes with his brother Vicente, a professional, as his caddie, and is fined for violating European PGA rule that pros cannot caddie during tournaments. July 17, 1988: Wins third British Open. December 1988: Marries Carmen Botin. 1991: Wins his sixth European Order of Merit title. September 26-29, 1991: Feuds with Paul Azinger at the Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, where he accuses the Americans of cheating for using a ball with the wrong compression. May 21, 1995: Wins his 50th, and last, European Tour event at the Peugeot Spanish Open. September 26-28, 1997: Captains European Ryder Cup team to a one-point win over Americans at Valderrama in Sotogrande, Spain, the first Ryder Cup played outside the US or UK. 1999: Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. 2001: Plays 19 events on the European Tour at age 44, his last full season. 2004: Divorces Carmen, his wife of 16 years. April 2007: Finishes last at the only Champions Tour event he would play. July 16, 2007: Recurring back problems force his retirement from professional golf. During a press conference he debunks rumours he had attempted suicide. 2008: Admits to cheering for the US in the Ryder Cup so the matches dont get too boring. October 5, 2008: Diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and spends 72 days at Madrids Hospital de La Paz. June 2009: Launches the Severiano Ballesteros Foundation, whose main purpose is to finance and promote brain cancer research. December 2009: Receives the BBCs Lifetime Achievement Award. May 7, 2011: Dies in Pedrena, Spain.

To ask Grant a question, e-mail us at golfdig@ newsmagazines.com.au

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/ july 2011

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