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Saturday, 07 May 2011
Players join in a minute's silence for Seve  (Getty Images)
Players join in a minute's silence for Seve (Getty Images)

The world of golf is mourning the passing of one of the all-time greats of the game and paying tributes to Seve Ballesteros.

Seve's passing was marked by a minute's silence during the third round of the Open de Espana. The flags flew at half mast, all the players wore black ribbons and scoreboards around the course carried his name.

European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady said: "This is such a very sad day for all who love golf.

"Seve's unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support, and play golf, and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion, and fierce determination.

"We have all been so blessed to live in his era. He was the inspiration behind The European Tour."

José María Olazábal said: “My first memory of Seve goes back to ‘83 or ’84. I was an amateur, and he called me to play in a charity event. It was a big surprise and I was very excited. It's hard to chose one of the many moments that I lived with him, but surely the most cherished are  Ryder Cup moments, particular the 1997 edition.
 
"What impressed most in Seve was his strength, his fighting spirit and the passion he put into everything he did. I saw him for the last time the Saturday after the Masters. He was not well, but his head was clear. We talked about many things… so many common memories, and particularly about the Ryder Cup.
 
The best tribute we can pay to Seve is to go on playing for him, although no tribute will ever do justice to everything he did for golf and to everything he gave us."
 

Miguel Ángel Jiménez commented: “I first met Seve when I was around 15. He came to play our ’79 Spanish Open at Torrequebrada. I worked there as a caddie, and he was on top of the world… people were crazy about him. I also remember when I won the Belgian Open in 1992. I didn’t speak a word of English so he interpreted for me. He said, “You are the winner, you are the boss, say whatever you feel like saying.”
 
"He was outstanding for his determination and his passion in everything he did. He never gave up, he always found a way out, and this was reflected in his personality.
 
"I have lived so many moments with him that it’s hard to chose one. I would maybe highlight the ’97 Ryder Cup, where I was his assistant. It was a truly special week. I loved to watch him fulfil one of his dreams and enjoy it so much. Seve’s passion for the Ryder Cup was unique.”

World Number One Lee Westwood wrote on Twitter: "It's a sad day, lost an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve."

He later added: "You always knew when Seve walked in a room even if you had your back to him.  He oozed charisma and brought a whole new meaning to aura.

"Seve gave his everything for golf and what the game and the European Tour particularly owes him is immense.   We would not be playing where and for what we are today without him having graced the world’s fairways.  He was that iconic a figure.

"Everybody loved Seve although there were probably a few Americans during Ryder Cup week who had an alternative opinion.  But even those whom Seve had tortured with his sheer brilliance  on the course were among the first to offer their support and best wishes when he started his long battle against cancer.

"Seve lost that fight on Sunday and the world of golf is a sadder place for it.

"Five majors, three Opens and two US Masters, do not pay a big enough tribute to the man who started golf hitting pebbles with an old three iron on a beach in northern Spain.  He was simply a fantastic golfer and he seemed to specialise in escape shots.  Getting up and down from anywhere was something he was supremely gifted in.

"Seve was everything as a golfer.   Immensely proud, fiercely determined, swashbuckling, brave, fearless and with a silky short game that few could match. He attracted every age group and was truly a golfer of the people.
Football is and always will be king in Spain, but the rise in popularity of the game in that country and others can be put down to Seve and what he brought to it.

"Golf has lost a genius."

Arnold Palmer said: "Seve was a great guy and an outstanding competitor. I considered him to be a good friend of mine. His dynamic talent was evident from the time he first arrived on the scene and I always invited him to play in my tournament at Bay Hill. What he brought to the game, especially in Europe, is well-documented. He was probably the main man, the greatest contributor to the European golf scene and to the Ryder Cup when they brought all of Europe into the matches. He will be sorely missed throughout the world of golf."

Jack Nicklaus said: "Today, golf lost a great champion and a great friend. We also lost a great entertainer and ambassador for our sport.

I have always had wonderful respect for Seve’s ability, how he played the game, and the flare he brought to the sport while achieving the success he did. It was his creativity, his imagination, and his desire to compete that made him so popular not only in Europe but throughout American galleries, too.

He was a great entertainer. No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained. Seve’s enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game."


Ballesteros' fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia said: "I am devastated to hear of Seve's passing.  He has inspired me so much throughout my career and I admired him above all for his fighting spirit - never more so than in the manner in which he has battled this terrible illness. It is the most enormous loss to the world of sport to lose this great man although he will be remembered and loved forever. He was a champion on the golf course, but also a champion for the game in Spain and Europe. I send my sincerest condolences to Seve's family."

Ernie Els said: "This is a very sad day for golf.  Seve was such an iconic figure and the flag bearer for European golf over many years.  He opened up so many doors for Europe’s players by winning all over the world and particularly in America.   The European Tour would not be what it is today without him.

“Seve was an absolute hero of mine and I modelled so much of my game on him.  I was very fortunate to have had  the opportunity to play with him many times and the most memorable was our battle in the World Matchplay of 1994. It was an unforgettable day and I feel honoured that I was able to share centre stage with him.

"Seve was a very proud man in golf and in life in general.   He never backed down from a challenge.  The world of golf has lost one of its greatest heroes."

Colin Montgomerie, eight times European Number One, said: “I am devastated to hear the news. He fought so bravely throughout this awful illness and, time and time again, showed such bravery and miraculous recovery skills as he did throughout his career.

“There are very few legends in the world, Seve is one of them. I never saw such a talent to swing a golf club, and we may never see it again. We have lost one of the great icons of the game, it is a great loss for Spain, for Europe and for the world. This is a very sad day for the world of golf, but it is also a day of celebration, it is a day to celebrate his life, showing pictures and videos of Seve at his best. It has been an honour to play with Seve and an honour to play under him as a Captain.

“He has left us with so many wonderful lasting memories and his contributions to European golf are unquantifiable. I send my deepest sympathies to his family.“

Irishman Padraig Harrington said: "Seve was the most charismatic and artistic golfer I have ever seen play the game.  He helped the tremendous growth of The European Tour during the 70's and 80's and inspired all those players who came after him. He will be sadly missed."

England's Paul Casey added: "He really blazed the trail for Europeans. Not only in the Ryder Cup, but also in how he played at Augusta and his victories over here. We owe a huge amount to him."

Francesco Molinari said: "Seve was a superhero for all young golfers, played shots only he could see."

The R&A's Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, said: “Everyone at the R&A is saddened to hear of Seve’s death. Our thoughts go out to his family.

"Seve was one of the brightest lights of our game and was an inspiration to millions.  His iconic celebration here at St Andrews, on the 18th green in 1984, ranks as one of sport’s greatest moments. The game has lost one of the greats; it is a very sad day for golf.”



Tim Finchem, Commissioner of the US PGA Tour, said: “All of us at the PGA TOUR are very saddened to learn of the passing of Seve Ballesteros. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the Ballesteros family and his many fans during this very sad time.

“For more than 30 years, Seve had a large impact on the game and inspired many players with his creativity and flair on and off the golf course. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Seve was truly an international icon, winning 87 tournaments worldwide, including five major championships.

“His influence on the Ryder Cup was transformational, as his exceptional abilities as a player helped lead to the inclusion of continental European players, which up until 1979 had been excluded from the team made up of those from Great Britain and Ireland. Some of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history featured Seve, either as a player on one of the eight teams he played on or as captain of the victorious 1997 team in his home country of Spain.

“Seve Ballesteros’ impact on golf will be felt long into the future, and we join his family and many friends in mourning his passing.”

Allen Wronowski, President of the PGA of America, said: “In every generation, there appears one performer in sport who stands out above another for more than just ability alone. Seve Ballesteros, the gallant warrior from Pedrena, Spain, was the ultimate competitor. We were fortunate to have had him choose golf, where he did more than win championships, he proudly became an ambassador for our sport’s global appeal. Seve played with a rare combination of talent and heart, and his intensity endeared him to his teammates in the Ryder Cup, a competition that elevated his talent and leadership. As long as the pipes may play to call teams together for the Ryder Cup, they will play for Seve. We shall miss him dearly, and we mourn with his family and his many friends and fans throughout the world.”

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: "I would like to express my deepest condolences on the death of Severiano Ballesteros, one of the finest golfers of all time and a legend in world sport.

"Severiano represented a beginning and an end in the history of Spanish sport: his example paved the way for the extraordinary success our sport is currently enjoying.

"He was the mirror which Spanish athletes who have reached the pinnacle of world sport looked into. Severiano was loved and respected for his great charisma and strength, which he showed until the very end of his life." -- Statement.


IOC President Jacques Rogge: "Seve Ballesteros was a man of incredible skill, charisma and courage as a sportsman, and the dignified way that he fought against the disease was characteristic of the man and was an inspiration to us all.

"He was a 'once in a generation athlete' in his sport, and his influence on the game will live long after him.

"On behalf of the Olympic Movement I would like to send our condolences to his family but also our huge appreciation for the life of a remarkable man."

Gonzaga Escauriaza, President of the Royal Spanish Golf Federation, expressed his deep regret of the loss of “the great icon of Spanish golf, one of the greatest all-time sports figures within and without our frontiers, a real legend that changed the concept of the game.”

“Severiano Ballesteros has always been a model of talent, determination and perseverance,” said the President of the RSGF before adding, “Severiano has taught us many things. When he was in his prime, he gave us his brilliant and unique understanding of golf and when it was his turn to face illness, his serenity, courage, and determination were a great help and inspiration for those undergoing similar circumstances.”

Gonzaga Escauriaza added that “his loss fills us with sadness and leaves a great void.  It is our sacred duty to acknowledge his feats and to pass on to future generations his outstanding legacy.”

“Severiano Ballesteros made it his aim to turn golf into a popular sport and free it from the lack of understanding that surrounded the game during his prime. It is only fitting to say that the growth of Spanish golf to its present number of more than 330.000 players is due in great measure to Severiano Ballesteros,” added the President of the RSGF.

Jack Peter, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, said: "On behalf of the Members of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, our staff and volunteers are saddened to learn of the passing of Seve Ballesteros. His time came much too soon, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ballesteros family.

"With three Open Championships and two Masters to his credit, Seve was a champion of the highest order. But we will remember him as the dashing genius who never backed down from an impossible shot, an icon of European golf, a Ryder Cup legend and a good friend.

"Seve was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. To honor one of our great members, the Spanish flag at the Hall of Fame has been lowered to half-mast and a special tribute has been created in the Museum. We will salute Seve in Monday evening’s Induction Ceremony and never forget the incredible impact he had on the game."

Kyi Hla Han, Executive Chairman of the Asian Tour, said: "On behalf of the Asian Tour, we are very sad to hear of Seve’s passing. He was a great champion and he made what World Golf is today. We send our deepest condolences to his family."

Bernard Gallacher, who captained Ballesteros in three Ryder Cups between 1991 and 1995, said: "He felt it was his duty as the best player in the world to inspire the European team.

"When I became Captain in 1991 he was still one of the best players in the world and he former a formidable partnership with Olazábal, virtually unbeatable."

Ballesteros also delivered an inspirational message to Colin Montgomerie's victorious team at Celtic Manor last year, and Gallacher added: "Seve's best golf was played in the 1980s but he was still inspiring this new generation of golfers - the Martin Kaymers, the Ross Fishers, we've heard from Lee Westwood how as a young boy he would watch Seve and everyone would want to copy and emulate Seve.

"Every European Tour player today should thank Seve for what they're playing for. America had Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer - Seve was our Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus rolled into one.

"You can't speak too highly of him, Seve was Europe's best ever player."

Ballesteros' former caddie Billy Foster remembers him as "an absolute gentleman, the ultimate warrior."

Foster added on Sky Sports News: "There's not many players I've worked for in my time that have that aura about them. It was a special time - I was probably 25 years old, I'd caddied for maybe 10 years, and I got the ultimate dream chance of working for an absolute superstar."

Peter Alliss, the voice of BBC golf, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “He was wonderful to watch. He brought delight and joy to many people who watched and played golf. He tweaked a few tails along the way and bloodied a few noses but that’s what helped make him what he was. He was a fighter, feisty, skilful, cheeky, lovable, he was everything. [To light up a room] he just had to smile. He had hair as black as a ravens wings when he was  a boy, his smile and twinkle in the eyes. When Seve was in a good mood the world smiled with him.”

Guy Kinnings, Director of IMG Golf, EMEA, said: "‘Legend’ is an over-used word but Seve truly was a legend of the game. He shaped the European Tour into the thriving enterprise it is today and changed the Ryder Cup forever. He inspired those he met and many that he did not even meet such was the sheer force of his personality and will be missed and remembered by all. He was the most charismatic sportsman in history and he leaves a lasting legacy. A perfect example of his  lasting influence on the game of golf is the inspiration he has provided to young rising star, Matteo Manassero who names Seve as his hero and inspiration at every opportunity.”

Andrew Chandler of International Sports Management said: "The world of golf is a much sadder place today following the news that Seve Ballesteros has lost his long battle against cancer.

"It was a privilege for me to have played on the European Tour when Seve was the best in the world so I saw him at his absolute best and his best was better than anybody else’s.   He was simply incomparable.
Seve’s first tournament outside Spain was at the Italian Open in 1974 which was also my first.  The record books show, our careers went in different directions after that, but what a great time and honour for all of us on Tour to have played in his era.

Seve was golf’s Pied Piper.  Glamorous women, young kids, blokes and everybody else followed him... and it seemed that he always had a cashmere sweater round his neck.  Without doubt, he was the most charismatic person I have ever met anywhere in the world.  There was an unbelievable aura around him and his smile could light up the darkest room.

"He was everything that everybody in golf wanted to be – incredibly talented and equally good looking.

"Seve lived for golf and his reward was to win five majors and many more titles around the globe. He will be remembered for the swashbuckling style he played the game and particularly for the victory salute when he won the Open at St.Andrews as well as being the player who turned European golf and the Ryder Cup into what they are today. We will miss him for many reasons, but be sure of one thing, he will not be forgotten.   There will never be another Severiano Ballesteros."

 

José Rivero said: “My first memory of Seve was in Gijón. I was playing in the “Gira del Norte” with his uncle Ramón and Jaime Benito. A young lad was following us, but I didn’t know him. I must have been 17 and he 15. Two weeks later we played the under-25 at Pedreña, and I was paired with him all three days. Obviously, he won the tournament.
 
Many memories come to my head, particularly from the Ryder Cup. The first time we won at The Belfry in ‘85 was very special, and the next even more, because that time we won in the US . Seve was the soul of the team, the real Captain.
 
He was the great driving force for golf in Spain and in Europe . The European Tour wouldn’t be what it it is without Seve.”
 
José Manuel Lara said: “I saw Seve for the first time at El Saler in 1989. I was 12, and I  watched him play an incredible bunker shot on the first. I was most impressed. Later on I had the opportunity to get to know him and I played a few times with him. 
  
“In the last Spanish Open at El Prat, in 1999 I was paired with him the last day. In ’96 during the Turespaña at el Saler I played a practice round with Seve. He noticed my drab golf bag and he asked me if I needed balls. I said yes, so he took me to the Titleist truck and said to them, “This is the future of Spanish golf. From now on I would like him to have all he needs."

Rafael Cabrera-Bello, said: “I never met Seve, but I grew up watching his videos. He has been a role model for me and it’s very sad when someone you have admired all your life dies.

"Seve invented a new style of golf. Before him, golf was meant to be played along the fairway, and if you missed it, you had to go back. Seve revolutioned the game with his imaginative shots.

"He has done a great del for golf, both in Spain and in Europe, and we all owe him a lot.”

Four-times Major Champion Phil Mickelson:

"He's certainly had an impact on the game, but to me the greatest thing about Seve is his flair and his charisma. Because of the way he played the game of golf, you were drawn to him. You wanted to go watch him play. He had charisma and he kind of had so many shots that it was fun to watch him play."

Former World Number One Tiger Woods:

"I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Seve Ballesteros.

"I always enjoyed spending time with him at the Champions dinner each year at the U.S. Masters. Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game.

"His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon."


Davis Love III, the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup captain:

"He was an icon in the game and somebody that I looked up to. I copied his swing. Everybody wanted to be as exciting and fun and flashy as Seve. Maybe hit a few more fairways, but everybody wanted that style. They wanted to be aggressive and able to play like that." 


Nick Price, who enjoyed one of the greatest Open duels of all time in 1988, said: “What he did for European golf was what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf. The European Tour would not be where it is now if it were not for Seve. His allegiance to the European Tour was admirable. I mean the guy was an icon; just an incredible golfer. I’ve always said most of us could shoot 65 in about 30 or 40 ways. He could do it about 10,000 different ways. He could miss every fairway, chip in five times, hole two bunker shots…what a sad day today. He was so creative around the greens. It didn’t matter if there was a tree or bunker, he’d figure out a way to get up and down. He and I had a great duel at Royal Lytham in 1988. It was a great day for each of us. I remember the seventh hole he made an eagle right on top of me. I remember after we played that hole that one of us was going to win because we were both playing so well that day and neither of us was going to back down. He was always very kind to me. Whatever you may have heard about him, his love for the game and his competitiveness was something I learned so much from. I don’t want to say I idolized the guy but I respected him so much for the way he played the game because he could play the game like very few people. He really did. He had that beautiful smile that used to win over the hearts of all the women. He was just an incredible personality; a huge asset. I think all of us who played with him or spent any time with him are the richer for it.” 

Former Open Champion, Mark O'Meara, said: “It’s a horrible deal. Seve played golf with a passion like no one else. He was an amazing golfer who did a lot of things for the game of golf. To lose his life at such an early age is sad. At the Masters dinner this year Jose Maria got up and talked and gave an incredible talk about reminiscing about Seve and talked about growing up and idolizing Seve. It was very heartwarming. His desire to win; his fight and the ability to create and play shots was reminiscent of Palmer and Watson.  He had a flair for the game that was quite amazing and that will always be remembered..

 

Curtis Strange said: “He was such a big part of the game and a big part of my life as well as most of us out here on the Champions Tour. He was a guy you didn’t forget in more ways that one. I say that with a smile on my face. I don’t remember going head-to-head in a tournament but we did in the Ryder Cup. He was the backbone of the European Tour for so long. Seve was their (European Tour’s) Arnold Palmer. We embellish the truth about things a lot of times but it is the absolute truth. They certainly have a lot more memories than we do of Seve but that was a big part of it. Seve loved the stage and that was the part of being Seve. He played with a lot of emotion and he was in his element and he thrived on the competition of the Ryder Cup.”

Hale Irwin, who played with Seve in 1979 when he won his first Open, said: “He was one of the best players in the era in which I played. There were very few players who you could simply call by a name like Arnie, Jack or Lee and know who exactly it was. He was one of those guys. He was a name all around the world. His skills were maybe unmatched by anybody. His short game skills around the green were unbelievable. I marveled at that. I saw him hit a bunker shot one time from a buried lie and he sounded like he hit it thin and it comes out with spin on it and it stopped on a dime. I asked him how he did it and he wouldn’t tell me. I understand and that was part of the mystique and the fence between the American players and Seve. I always thought Seve was one of the great shotmakers in our game and one of most colorful players I’ve witnessed in my career. He had the magnetism that drew people to him. I played with him in the last round of the ’79 British Open and I’m leading and I watched the guy hit three fairways all day and win the British Open. It wasn’t because he was lucky; it was because he created some shots that were unbelievable. As sad as I was, I look back and scratch my head and say ‘how does he do it’. It wasn’t an accident or luck; it was a skill factor he had.”

Another former Open Champion Tom Lehman said: “He always treated me really well; very kind. He was always a competitive guy and I always appreciated that he would say something nice and offer encouragement. He didn’t have to do that but he did. We played in the Ryder Cup in 1995 and I remember the heart he had. He hit it all over the map but his short game was just magic. He kept himself in the match through 10 or 11 holes. Nobody could have done it with the places he hit it that day but he did. I always say it was the best nine holes I’ve ever seen on the front nine. He shot even par or something. I would have shot probably been 9-over. He had a great feel for the game. He never really seemed to doubt his ability and that is what makes a champion.”

Mark Calcavecchia commented: “I don't think I ever beat the guy.  He was, you know, he was unbelievable really.  You know, kind of what I would call the modern day Phil Mickelson, or he was Phil back then.  He was just the best imagination, the best short game, you never really knew where he was going to hit it.  I thought he had a great swing.  I think I played him twice in the Ryder Cup and of course he was always with Jose Maria.  Pretty sure I never -- I never beat him in a match.  But yeah, you never know, you know?  It's too bad.  He was certainly awesome and really a very charismatic, everything.  Everybody loved watching him, for sure.”

Mark McNulty said: “It’s a very sad day for golf. Seve was a great inspiration for not just European players but also American players. He was iconic as far as Spanish sports stars were concerned. He was the first major sports star to come out of Spain and that country has been a fantastic breeding ground for soccer, tennis and golf ever since. I was very friendly with Seve. Like what Arnold Palmer brought to the PGA TOUR, Seve brought to the European Tour. I have so many memories of Seve but the one that stands out happened in Switzerland. One of the greatest shots I ever saw was when he played a shot at the 18th hole at Crans su Serr in the Swiss Open to eventually win. He was behind a wall and hit something like a 4-iron or a 2-iron from an 8-iron distance from the hole and he cut it around the wall. People who can remember the shot know exactly the type of shot he hit there. He was the original get-out-of-jail artist.”
 

Footballer Johan Cruyff said: “Seve is a figure of huge significance for golf and for world sport, his demise is an irreparable loss.

"We met around 30 years ago. I didn’t know anything about golf, and he taught me a few things. After that, I had the honour to play with him a few times.

"Seve has been a great model for young people. Through his achievements and his personality, he put golf on the map, and thanks to him, many people enjoy this wonderful sport nowadays. He was more than a sportsman.”

There was a also tribute to Ballesteros prior to the semi-final between Spain's world number one Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the Madrid Open tennis tournament.

A minute's silence was observed for the five-time major winner, while images of the charismatic Spaniard played on the giant screens above Manolo Santana court.

Lengthy applause from the packed crowd for Ballesteros followed the minute's silence, while Nadal played with a black ribbon on his shirt in memory of his countryman.

Speaking after the match, Rafael Nadal said of Ballesteros' death: "It's a sad day in general for Spain, for the world of sport.

"I think that he was one of the best golf players in history. He was one of the best athletes that this country has ever had. He was a pioneer. He was one of the first big athletes that we have had in Spain. I think that he has always had great spirit to overcome.

"I was talking yesterday with his brother - well, texting with him - and he told me that he was critical. This morning the first thing I did was to turn on TV, and the first thing I saw was that he had died.

"It's a day of sadness. When you wake up with news like that you face your day differently. The only thing I can do is to give all my support to his family. It is a loss that they will never get back due to all the values that Seve had; he was a great inspiration for all of us and all the athletes.

"But luckily we have all of his videos and also we can remember him. Luckily one day I had the chance of playing 18 holes with him and it's an unforgettable memory."

Footballers at Seve Ballesteros' local club, Racing Santander, also wore black armbands for their match - a tribute to a great sportsman, and a unique man, who fought against his illness to the last, according to club president, and Seve's friend, Francisco Pernia.

Many other sports personalities have expressed their own sorrow at Seve's death.

Formula One driver Fernando Alonso called him a pioneer of golf in Spain: A man who discovered the sport for his country, and someone who would always remain as one of the greatest in Spanish sport.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola said Seve Ballesteros was admired and loved in all the world. Footballer Raul commented that Spanish sport has lost one of its greats.


 

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