Seve Ballesteros was born on April 9, 1957 and became one of the most influential golfers of all time. Renowned golf photographer Dave Cannon followed him throughout his career and wrote this stunning tribute following the death of the legendary Spaniard in 2011.
Severiano Ballesteros was without doubt the favourite and most inspiring subject in my career as a golf photographer. During my 30 years walking the fairways there have been only three golfers (Seve, Greg Norman and Tiger) who each and every day I went out to photograph would give me a memorable photograph to capture, whether it was a smile, a scowl, a serious moment, or a great action image it did not matter the eyes told the story, the unrivalled passion for the game of golf. A passion I share every day of my life and I miss Seve being around so much as a person let alone as a subject.
I actually met Seve in 1976 three years before I first picked up a serious camera for the first time in my life. I was lucky enough to have drawn Seve as my professional in a pro‐am at my home club The Leicestershire Golf Club. I was the ‘young buck’ of the club, a county player playing off scratch, he was the almost unknown brother of Manuel a regular player on the tour. I remember that day so well from the moment his Manuel introduced us, whereupon I was greeted with that incredible smile a smile that unbeknown to me I was going to be privileged to capture on film in the years to come. Two months later he played that memorable chip shot threaded through the brown, lightning fast bumps and hollows between two treacherous bunkers from left of the green on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale to secure second place in the Open to Johnny Miller. This shot announced Seve to the world of golf showing his creative genius that to this day has not been rivalled in the game. Tiger Woods can and has played incredible golf shots but personally I see no comparison with Seve for the ability to shape and pull off shots of unthinkable genius.
There are so many memories of photographing Seve it is hard to isolate the moments to specific times. Suffice to say the images tell the best story….
Seve on the 18th green at St Andrews in 1984.
Seve in full flow in the second round of the Open at Royal Lytham in 1988 in those vivid green trousers with his hair blowing in the wind.
Seve involved in one of those epic Ryder Cup moments.
Or 'That Shot’ on the 18th hole in the Canon European Masters at Crans Montana in Switzerland in 1993. Where he ignored caddie Billy Foster's advice to chip out sideways and I clearly recall Billy (who now caddies for Matt Fitzpatrick) muttering as he walked to where I was lying down taking the pictures “he’s got no f...... chance but I somehow know he will prove me wrong!”. Seve laid the face of his sand wedge wide open and sent the ball almost vertically up over the wall, to the edge of the green. From there he followed up by chipping in for the most unbelievable birdie – pure Seve!!!
But I suppose one of my favourite moments with Seve was on the beach at Pedrena his home in Northern Spain. I had literally got off a plane from Australia in London that morning and flown straight to Bilbao and then driven to his home in Pedrena to shoot Seve for a golf magazine and Sunderland waterproofs. To work with Seve at home was such a thrill and to recreate those putting games he played as a youngster on that tide washed sand, a perfectly smooth but lightning fast surface that prepared him so well for those battles he faced with the greens of Augusta and the great golf courses of the world is a moment I will never forget.
Such a sad day, knowing Seve and his determination he will not have given up lightly, hopefully now he will have found his peace and will be charming the world up there with the greatest smile a photographer could ever photograph. How lucky and extremely privileged I was to have known him as a player and subject, but most of all as friend. The split seconds of his life I have been able to capture on film are just moments of the career of a genius in a sport that I love.