A decade after the death of Seve Ballesteros – the memory of 18 holes with a charismatic European golfer

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This week marks 10 years since Seve Ballesteros was stolen from us, and any golfer of a certain age is sure to look back in amazement.

Which shot made it for you? Mine was his opening run at the 1976 Open at Royal Birkdale when I was still in school.

No one was brave or foolish enough to drive over the corner of the dog’s paw at that brutal opening hole until he got on the tee. That was it. I got up from the small grandstand and ran all 18 holes with the Spanish teenager.

Three days later, after a unique 72-hole show of daring and daring, he had come second to Johnny Miller and the whole sports world had known his name.

Any golfer of a certain age will have memories of Seve Ballesteros, who died ten years ago

My memory meets him in Spain and I get the offer of a lifetime to play 18 holes

My memory meets him in Spain and I get the offer of a lifetime to play 18 holes

However, my favorite memory of Seve came at his beloved Pedrena Golf Club 20 years later. By then he was a man truly marked by the passage of time.

Two weeks into a new job at the Sunday Telegraph, I had ventured to Northern Spain hoping to bump into him. No one had seen him since the last Ryder Cup five months earlier, when chronic back pain had barely allowed him to contribute to the winning cause. What had happened to him?

It looked like a hopeless goose chase when I entered the pro’s shop and was told he was on vacation. I was sitting in the clubhouse drinking an espresso and feeling miserable, when who should come in sight with a set of clubs and go to the first tee with no one for company except Seve? When I screwed up the coffee, I just met him when he put on his golf glove.

‘What are you doing here?’ he asked questioningly. “Funnily enough, I was hoping to bump into you,” I replied. The offer of a lifetime came back. “Well, I’m about to play 18 holes,” Seve said. ‘Do you want to join?’

Like all the best interviews, this one came with a fantastic first as it revealed that he would accept the offer to become Valderrama’s Ryder Cup captain in 1997.

Seve told me he would be the captain of Europe in the Ryder Cup in Valderrama in 1997

Seve told me he would be the captain of Europe in the Ryder Cup in Valderrama in 1997

But that’s not why it left such an indelible impression. It was the fascinating insight he gave into a sportsman who operated on a heroic level but who had reached the wrong side of greatness; hoped for more good years, but struggled with all the other things life had thrown into the mix, such as ill health, having a family, and the pierced armor of invincibility.

For about an hour, we barely talked about golf. At one point he stopped walking and looked out to Santander Bay and a mansion on the hill where General Franco was spending his summer vacation.

“I really think someday someone will blow up the world,” he said.

He almost lost his temper on a fairway when I asked about his back. “People don’t realize how sensitive the mind is,” he knocked. The more my back is asked, the more pain I feel. It won’t be perfect anymore, so let’s leave it at that. ‘

It's easy to forget that the Spanish genius was a funny man, even when speaking in a second language

It’s easy to forget that the Spanish genius was a funny man, even when speaking in a second language

One thing that’s easily forgotten about Seve is how funny he was, even in a second language, and there were plenty of examples between the thoughts, both morbid and profound.

“You know I’ve never had a hole in one with Pedrena?” he said, as a perfectly struck iron two against the long par-three 15th nearly hit the flagstick. “I’ve really only had two in my life.”

“I’ve had five,” I said to him.

“You must be a great champion,” he replied immediately.

When those unforgettable three hours came to an end and we were in the clubhouse, he handed me two bottles of Rioja and signed one: ‘Seve ’96.’

The bottle remains a vivid reminder of blessed moments of rare vintage spent in the company of the most charismatic European golfer of all.

BROTHER LOVE GUIDES WALKER CUP PRA

It has never been easy for a team from Great Britain and Ireland to win the Walker Cup on American soil, but what an opportunity for the ’21 pick that will try to win the oldest team trophy in golf from American hands at the revered Seminole in Florida. weekend?

Certainly it will be difficult to acclimate to lightning-fast greens for those team members coming out of our winter and lockdown, with little competitive training as a result.

Fortunately, the majority of the 10-person team is based in US universities, including Alex Fitzpatrick, who can certainly count on the support of a former US amateur champion.

For obvious reasons, his brother Matt, who has an American base near Seminole, is missing the PGA Tour this week.

Alex Fitzpatrick, Matt's brother, will play at Seminole in the Walker Cup this weekend

Alex Fitzpatrick, Matt’s brother, will play at Seminole in the Walker Cup this weekend

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