….except he’d probably pronounce it hwits.
I was peppered the other day for writing about a decent golfer with a flair for self-publicity but forgive me for writing a few words on a proper golfing hero, Severiano Ballesteros, who called it a day yesterday from playing competitive golf. Fact is his severe back problems and the resulting mental anguish they’ve caused, have meant that he’s been a declining force for years. But from ’79 when he won his first Open to ’97 when he captained the Ryder Cup team to success, he was a golfing colossus.
Nobody who saw it will ever forget that first Open win at Royal Lytham where he famously drove into a car park at the 16th with Nicklaus in hot pursuit just a shot behind. But the kid played the shot of his life by chipping up to 15ft, holed it and won the Championship. The Americans seem to hate him for it; Hale Irwin called him the ‘Car park Champion’. Yeh well we loved mate and what did you Irwin ever achieve over here? Is it just me but I reckon we enjoyed the fact that here was a kid who played golf like we did – in the rough, deep in the gorse bushes in fact anywhere but on the fairway. The difference is he was just magical at recovering, whereas we were crap (well I was). No sweat, heroes have to be good at something.
His second Open win at St Andrews – those marvellous last two holes, punching the air in joy – were perhaps the best moments I’ve ever seen in golf. It was a personal mission of mine to go and see the Open there and I was fortunate to do that when Tiger tore the place apart in 2000 and again in 2005 when Nicklaus retired. What a shame we weren’t able to give Seve the sort of send off big Jack received. As for the rest of his career he won 2 Masters I think and 50 Tour wins but his greatest achievement was in convincing a team of Europeans that they could not only take on but beat the Amerians at the Ryder Cup. He was the one who gave the team a steel backbone which is kind of ironic given his later physical problems.
In recent years his life has seemed to become a series of problems; he seemed tormented at not being able to play like he used to, his marriage collapsed, a friend was killed in a recent car crash, heart scares and recent reports of a suicide attempt which he denies. But maybe he’ll find contentment now that the pressure to do it one more time has been banished. I hope so because Seve, in golfing parlance, you really are el hombre.