Medinah Country Club, Illinois
The 39th Ryder Cup, Day Three
September 30, 2012
Something was in the air. All through the afternoon the impossible had felt weirdly within reach, as if events were being controlled by forces beyond the merely rational. At around 7pm that evening, as Germany’s Martin Kaymer settled over a routine six-footer, the world held its breath. Seconds later, Kaymer was buried in oceans of blue.
In those mad wild moments after one of the greatest comebacks in sport, a camera was bustled through the melee to land on José María Olazábal, Team Europe’s captain. Olazábal was there, but not there. Drenched in sweat, soaked in tears, he turned to the skies and cried out to his friend.
Sixteen months earlier, Severiano Ballesteros had succumbed to a malignant brain tumour. This Ryder Cup was the first since his death. His presence at Medinah was not mere fantasy: he was there, his image embroidered on the bags of Europe’s finest golfers, and in the myths and stories freshly dusted off for the new ceremony. When José María flung his head back, he was not alone. A whole golfing continent exhaled with him.
Seve. Just the name is enough. He flipped the whole show. Five Majors, including two green jackets. Five Ryder Cup wins (both as player and captain). A total of 89 tournament wins around the world. And a game forged on instinctiveness and creativity that would change how golf was seen and played forever.
The youngest of five brothers, he was raised in the small fishing village of Pedreña on the northern coast of Spain, where his humble background, such as it was, permitted him only to walk the fairways of his local club as a caddie. He had no choice but to learn the game by alternative means. “I taught myself a different game,” he once explained. “Because I was born next to a golf course, there were times when I would go onto it at night and play in the dark. I learned my feel for the game and how to play unusual shots.”
When not sneaking on to the course under cover of nightfall, he played on the beaches near his home, often skipping school to do so. Primarily using a 3-iron given to him by his older brother Manuel, it was during this time that he developed the flair for shotmaking that would shape his genius. By the age of 16, he had begun to develop as one of Spain’s most promising young players. Months later he turned professional; three years on, at the 1976 Open, he finished second. No one in golf would be asking who that Spanish kid was again.
His American alter ego Jack Nicklaus once said of him: “He was a great entertainer. No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained. Seve’s enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game. Seve was, without argument, a terrific player – his record speaks for itself – but more important was his influence on the game, especially throughout Europe. Through the years, his involvement with the Ryder Cup, as both a player and captain, served to further elevate the stature of the matches. He was probably the most passionate Ryder Cup player that we’ve ever had.
”Popularising the sport in Spain was his proudest achievement. After scrabbling in the backwoods for much of his early life, he was driven to democratise the game, founding an annual tournament for young kids in Pedreña to seek out and support talented young golfers, helping them overcome the difficulties he himself had experienced.
The PGA of Spain, of which Seve was a passionate advocate, carries its own crucial role in developing golf across Spain. “As a supporter of our work, Seve was and continues to be a very important figure to the PGA of Spain and his drive to give back to the game that had given him so much was clear to see. He continues to be an inspiration to all golfers here in Spain”.
Such sentiments from the Head of Education for the PGA of Spain, José Vicente Perez, are continuously echoed by those who knew him well.
His company Amen Corner (an ode to his Masters triumphs), has been responsible for organising over 50 international European Tour events in his home country, including the Spanish Open and The Vivendi Trophy (formerly The Seve Trophy). Later he became a renowned course architect, helping design over 30 courses, the majority of which can be found in Spain.
Since the Ballesteros era, there has been a near conveyor belt of stars emerge from the Iberian Peninsula. José María was the first; next was the cigar-toting and seemingly ageless phenomenon that is Miguel Ángel Jiménez, followed by the generational talent of Sergio Garcia – perhaps the closest in spirit to the original.
Most recently, there is Jon Rahm, the swashbuckling youngster with the golfing world at his feet.
Rahm may be today’s icon. But he too knows where it starts. “Seve means everything to me. He was my hero and he is a truly indisputable benchmark in Spanish golf. I took up golf thanks to Seve. He inspired me to be where I am today.”
In keeping with Seve’s long history of supporting the PGA of Spain, the kind words that are so often uttered from his playing compatriots are put into action too. Only recently, a number of those that Seve helped to inspire followed in his footsteps by sharing their experiences with PGA of Spain Professionals at a time of great challenge for all.
The legacy of Seve flows deep into the soul of every Spanish player. From genial hacker to budding maestro, it’s there, forever alive, in any golfer who ever addressed a ball lying deep in the gorse or hanging on the edge of a car park and thought, “Now then, what would Seve do?”
A luxurious hardback title, Seve – His Life Through the Lens, charting the life and career of Spanish golfing legend Severiano Ballesteros has been released today. The new 176-page book has been produced by award-winning photographer David Cannon, who has lovingly put together the most iconic pictures from Seve’s life and career, many of them seen for the first time by the general public.
The CPG is delighted to offer its members and supporters a 10% discount to celebrate the book’s release. Please click the link below and enter code at checkout and the discount will be applied.
CODE: CPG Discount