The sad news of Seve Ballesteros’ death came as this issue was going to press. We knew he was not well, that his condition was worsening, but it was still a heavy blow for all of us who love the game of golf.
I first saw him play in the 1987 Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village in Ohio. It was the first time I attended a major tournament and I was hugely impressed. I believe this was also the first time he and José María Olazábal joined forces in what was to become a formidable Ryder Cup partnership.
I was struck by his play, his charisma and his control over the situation, and above all I was amazed at how much the Americans admired him. When he reached the green the applause was deafening. No other member of his team received such a welcome. At the time it was hard to appreciate but I soon realised just what Seve meant for golf, for people throughout the world, irrespective of their nationality – although the British, Irish and Americans were his most avid fans. In Spain we had little idea of what Seve represented in the world of sport.
I subsequently had the good fortune to see him win numerous tournaments, including his third and final British Open the following year. Once again I was able to witness first-hand the great enthusiasm British fans had for Seve. None of the “home” players were as loved or aroused such passions.
Why did this happen? His game was spectacular, imaginative, distinctive and of an exceptionally high quality – but that would not have been sufficient. Seve radiated something else: charisma, an explosive personality on the course and a telegenic image on TV screens – all of which turned him into a golf idol, a legend, throughout the world.
He was one of those rare personalities who only emerge from time to time (not only in golf), who stir the masses and earn a deep affection that others – even those with a more impressive record – are never able to enjoy.