Saturday, May 07, 2011

Remembering Seve Ballesteros

   As the memories of Seve Ballesteros come rushing back, wrapped in the sadness of his passing, three images come to me.

   The first is of seeing him win the 1980 Masters, watching up close his magic. Part of it was the golf but more of it was who he was. He had that almost indefinable but undeniable aura that radiated from him.

   He was the kind of guy the movies would make up but he was the real thing. He played golf with a rare passion. It didn't hurt that he was handsome, dark-haired and fiery. Watching Ballesteros could be spell-binding because there was an almost untamed element to his golf.

    Seve would hit it in places few others would and then dazzle us with his ability to save par or make a birdie from the ragged edge.

    The second image is of a photograph taken years ago that showed Ballesteros shaking hands with his long-time Ryder Cup partner and fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal after winning another match. They were silouetted in profile and the image of Ballesteros, jaw jutted forward and leaning into the handshake, captured the essence of Seve's competitive fire.

   Finally, I remember standing on  the 10th tee at the K Club in 2006 during the Ryder Cup matches. Like the hundreds packed into the grandstands around the tee, I was waiting for a match to reach the 10th hole.

   Quietly, Seve walked onto the back of the tee, standing beside a wall by himself. Gradually, the gallery noticed Ballesteros and began cheering, finally giving him a standing ovation.

   That's what he meant to golf, particularly European golf. We didn't see enough of him here but we saw enough to know -- and to remember now -- Ballesteros had a rare brilliance.