Tait: 10 reasons Seve was sensational
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Seve Ballesteros’ impact on European golf was immeasurable. That’s why news of his death at age 54 has hit the European Tour so hard.
In order to try to give you an impression of his importance to the European Tour, I’ve come up with ten reasons that made him so special in European hearts.
1.) He had charisma – Arguably no player in the game has had as much charisma as Severiano Ballesteros. Arnold Palmer comes close but it’s questionable if Palmer had that intangible animal magnetism that naturally drew people to Ballesteros. Seve could light up a room just by entering it, or simply by flashing his dazzling smile.
2.) He had movie star good looks – It’s not a stretch to think that in another life Seve might have been a movie star. He certainly had the sort of good looks that made people turn their heads in his direction, especially hordes of females – golf and non-golf fans alike.
3.) He was a genius – Even today there are few players who can pull off the sort of audacious shots Seve went for in his prime. Part of his attraction was watching him hit his ball into wild places and then the fascination of how he would turn what seemed like certain disaster into a par or even a birdie.
4.) He had immense pride – Seve didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was a proud man who believed he was as good or better than any other. That was one reason why he rose from humble beginnings to become the greatest player Europe ever produced.
5.) He was inspirational – It’s questionable whether Spain would have produced the likes of Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia and numerous other players if it hadn’t been for Seve. He proved that ordinary Spaniards could rise to great heights in what is essentially an elitist sport.
6.) He was a pioneer – Just as Seve inspired his countrymen, he proved to all European Tour professionals that they could break the American monopoly on the game’s greatest tournaments. He became the first European player to win the Masters when he triumphed at Augusta in 1980. That set in motion a train of European success that led to victories by Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal.
7.) He did not play second fiddle to America – Along with his pride came a strong belief that anything the Americans could do, Europe could do just as well. Seve tried to play in the United States but hated it. So he returned to Europe and spent his career making sure the European Tour became almost as strong as the American Tour.
8.) He made the Ryder Cup a success – The Ryder Cup would not be the match it is today if not for Seve Ballesteros. He turned the Ryder Cup into a personal crusade, and inspired other Europeans to believe they could beat the Americans. When Europe lost by a point in 1983, Seve chastised his team mates afterwards.
“Why do you all sit there like that?” Seve shouted. “What is the matter with you? This has been a great victory, a great, great victory. This proves we can beat them. We must celebrate.”
Belief set in by the time the celebrations stopped. No European team has taken a back seat to the United States ever since.
“That was the spark: Seve in 1983,” Nick Faldo said. “By 1985 we knew we could do it, we could win the Ryder Cup.”
9.) He encouraged young talent – More than one player has spoke of how Seve went out of his way to encourage them. Ernie Els met Seve early in his career and was surprised when Seve made a point of telling him that he had the talent to be a great player. “It meant a lot to me,” Els said.
10.) He made the European Tour successful – Seve made the European Tour attractive to sponsors. His career coincided with the Tour’s first years and no player did more to build up the Tour than he did. “What was needed was a star. Seve became and remained that star,” said Ken Schofield, former European Tour executive director. “He was loved wherever he went. He attracted people to him.”
European Tour players would not be playing for the huge prize money they are playing for now if not for Seve paving the way. Every European player owes Seve a huge debt of gratitude.
Rest in peace, Seve. You may be gone from us, but you’ll never be forgotten.