Masters 2013: Euro contingent owes thanks to Seve

Seve Ballesteros gets his Green Jacket after winning the 1983 Masters.

Seve Ballesteros gets his Green Jacket after winning the 1983 Masters.

Many European professionals playing in this week’s Masters should say a quiet thank you to Seve Ballesteros. Without him, they might not be playing at Augusta National this week.

Most of the European contingent, all 27 of them, should also give a nod of approval to the other members of Europe’s big six – Sir Nick Faldo, Bernard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam. However, they owe Seve more than the other five.

Ballesteros’ two wins in 1980 and 1983 paved the way for other European victories. He was the spark that made the above five realise they could win the green jacket. Moreover, the Spaniard made Augusta National members sit up and realize there were plenty of good players on the European Tour worthy of Masters invites.

Let’s also give a little credit to former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield. He campaigned tirelessly to get more Europeans through the Augusta National gates, and into the U.S. Open and PGA Championship too.

However, Seve was the trailblazer.

“Seve showed other Europeans that they could win majors in the United States,” former European Ryder Cup player Ken Brown said. “He opened the doors for others to follow, and they did. He was the inspiration. He proved it wasn’t necessary to move to the United States to win majors over there.”

Of course, Langer followed by winning the 1985 Masters and again in 1993, Lyle won in 1988, Faldo in 1989, 1990 and 1996, Woosnam in 1991 and Olazabal twice in 1994 and 1999. Seve opened the floodgates. Not just for these players to win, but for other Europeans to play in the Spring Classic. Mind you, it did take a little while.

Brown wasn’t as fortunate as today’s Europeans. He only played in one Masters. So did Mark James and Howard Clark. All three won big European Tour events and played on multiple Ryder Cups. They were just a level below Seve and Co., but good players in their own right. They would have played in numerous Masters had they been around today.

For Brown, James and Clark, read Jamie Donaldson, David Lynn and Thorbjorn Olesen. They’re good players but not exactly huge stars, yet make their Masters debuts this year. There was a time when they wouldn’t have got through the front gates. Only the creme de la creme of European and international golf got invited.

Indeed, the U.S. majors were very much closed shops to ordinary Europeans. That all began to change with Seve’s two Masters victories.

Ironically, while there are more Euros in the Masters nowadays, no European has won since Olazabal in 1999. A European win is overdue. Maybe Seve can do something about that from his lofty position in that great clubhouse in the sky.

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