Letters to the Editor: Tribute to Seve Ballesteros

Editor’s Note: The following was taken from excerpts of a letter written to Seve Ballesteros before his death.

My name is James and I was a tall thin Englishman who lived in Santander for one year teaching English in the Cantabrian schools. I used to come up to play golf at Pedrena on my days off teaching. I was privileged to meet you at Pedrena back in 1987 when I waited in the rain with Jose Antonio Rozadilla for you to arrive, and several times during 1988 when I watched you practice at the driving range with your Uncle Ramon, I was even brave enough to ask you to look at my golf swing one day, when I saw you hit six irons well past my driver! You were kind enough to spend time turning my slice into a hook, and when I thanked you and said I could now play in the wind you said “mejor que te quedas en casa!” I was a spectator at the Spanish Open held at Pedrena and watched your practice round with Jose Cabo, Jose Carilles and Jose Antonio Rozadilla, as you walked up to the 18th green you must have planned a surprise as suddenly my camera was taken off me and you posed for a picture with me. My meeting you made my year abroad in Spain and it gave me bragging rights with my fellow students when I went back to university to say I hung out with the number 1 golfer in 1988 and later winner of the Open at Lytham St Annes!

I also watched you play in the 1996 Open at Lytham (recalled your practice round with a very young Sergio Garcia), plus my first ever visit to Augusta National in 2007 when I walked round with you in your final rounds in a major championship caddied by your nephew Ivan. Never mind what you scored, it was the memories of your recovery play which stand out – drive in the trees on the 7th hole, an iron through a small gap in the trees to the front of the green, a chip and a three foot putt for par!

I want to thank you for the fantastic golfing memories you have given me, especially the five major wins and those Ryder Cup victories – my one true sadness and I still shed a tear about it, was the 1986 Masters, which I really wanted you to win in memory of your father. Your conduct as a golfer, even gracious in defeat and the way you went about your business has inspired me in my every day walk – your refusal to be defeated even when people said you could not win. I will treasure the memories of your Ryder Cup performances and the way you nurtured Jose Maria Olazabal into the fine player he now has become, and the way you were a father figure to David Gilford in the 1995 Ryder Cup foursomes when you were struggling with your own game, and the abrazo you gave Nick Faldo when he holed the putt on 18th green to defeat Strange.

I’ve read your autobiography and understand your questioning whether God cares; in short I don’t have an answer but pray that at this time God will have some meaning for you through his Son Jesus Christ. I am encouraged that there are Christians in the golfing world who you have a lot of respect for, I think particularly of Bernhard Langer, Gary Player and Paul Azinger and would ask you to open up to what they have to say.

I am hopeful you will be around a long time so I can tell my children about you and I look forward one day to meet you in heaven and learning from you how to get up and down from car parks!

Un abrazo fuerte.

James Rawcliffe