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Wednesday, 04 April 2012
Masters champions Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal  (Getty Images)
Masters champions Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal (Getty Images)

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The late, great Seve Ballesteros – the first European to win the Masters -  was remembered at the annual Champions Dinner at Augusta National on Tuesday night.

José Maria Olazábal, with whom Ballesteros formed the most lethal partnership in Ryder Cup history, was among those present.

"There is always a mention during the dinner of the players who have passed away in the year just gone," Olazábal said.

"It's one of the beauties of this place that they show their respect to those we have lost."

Ballesteros died last May after being diagnosed with a brain tumour late in 2008. His final Masters appearance came the year before.

Ballesteros won his first Green Jacket in 1980 - the youngest winner at the time aged only 23 -  and triumphed again in 1983, his swashbuckling style, spirit and imagination perfectly aligned to the challenges of Augusta National. His success at Augusta, coupled with his three Open Championship victories, inspired a generation and drew millions of fans around the world.

Olazábal, now Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain, has often spoken about how much he learnt about Augusta from Ballesteros, but a new generation will sadly not have that opportunity.

“The beauty about the game of golf is that as years go by you have the opportunity to share moments and knowledge from people who were there before you,” Olazábal told the Augusta Chronicle. “In this case unfortunately, we’re not going to have the opportunity to talk with this person. I imagine he would be coming here every year and how many practice rounds he would have been able to play with young players and share that knowledge and information with those players.

“Even though we have video footage of him with his magical shots and those special moments from the trees or chipping around the greens, you actually don’t have the person himself. And that I think is the great loss that we have in this case.”

Olazábal credits Ballesteros’ mentoring for lifting him into the realm of major champions.

“He was crucial in the sense that he was my mentor and he made me believe in my abilities,” the two-time Masters winner said. “That was the main thing for me. He was always very clear and very positive and made me believe in myself.”

Palmer, who is most often linked with Ballesteros as influences on their respective tours, never got to duel with the Spaniard at the peak of their powers, but even the King got a taste of what Seve was all about.

“One of my last defeats, after I was old and not playing, I played in the World Match Play,” Palmer said. “I played Seve and I was one up going to 18 at Wentworth. He was in the woods and I was just a foot or two short of the green in two. I didn’t know where Seve was. I couldn’t see him. And he holed it for 3 out of the woods and I lost the hole and lost the first extra hole. He did things like that all the time.”

“Golf misses him,” said Ben Crenshaw, the two-time winner who serves as host to the exclusive club of past champions. “He leaves such a void there because he did so much for the European Tour. He started so young, and the European Tour grew up with him. He was a giant over there. He had it all.”

He added: “He just had that aura about him. Always did. He did things with such flair and wore his emotions on his sleeve and that Spanish temper came out so many times. He just loved competition. My God, he was a maestro.”

For me he was the most important,” Sergio Garcia said of his golfing influences. “Seve was everything to Spanish sports in the ’80s and ’90s, not only to golf. To me he was a great influence. One of my idols.”

Quotes reproduced courtesy of the Augusta Chronicle  - http://www.augusta.com/masters/news

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