Golfing world to say adios to Seve Ballesteros
It began at La Manga with an 83 and it ended 33 years later at Augusta with rounds of 86 and 80 - but in between Seve Ballesteros lifted European golf to new heights.
Now comes the time to say goodbye to the sporting genius who died aged 54 on Saturday, three-and-a-half years after collapsing at Madrid Airport with a brain tumour.
Ballesteros' funeral takes place at 1pm today at the San Pedro parish church in his home village of Pedrena near Santander.
“Seve will be cremated at a ceremony that will be as intimate as possible and at a place that nobody will know,” his family said.
“That was his express wish. His ashes will remain at his estate, at his home in Pedrena.”
Seve's brother Baldomero commented: “The funeral rites will be as simple as those for any neighbour from the village. He was born here and here he will remain.”
The son of a farmer, Ballesteros was one of five brothers. One died in childhood, but the other four — Baldomero, Vicente, Manuel and Seve — remarkably all became golf professionals.
Only one of them, though, was able to become a superstar and leave memories that will never be forgotten in the history of not just golf, but all of sport.
Second in the 1976 Open Championship at the age of only 19 — he actually led it the first three days before American Johnny Miller came storming through to win by six — Ballesteros had to wait only three years to become the youngest winner of the Claret Jug for 86 years.
The Spaniard was dubbed ‘the car park champion' that week after his unconventional way of playing Royal Lytham's 16th hole via a television compound.
But when he became the first European to win the Masters the following April — he led that by 10 with nine holes to play before ending up ‘only' four shots clear — everybody in the know realised the impact he was about to have.
When you think that Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors and Tiger Woods has 14, the five Ballesteros finished his career with was a fairly meagre return for his talent in truth, but the dashing way he played and the charisma he brought made golf sexy all of a sudden.
And others like Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam achieved what they did partly because Ballesteros had shown them what was possible.
The 1984 Open at St Andrews was the high point, a dramatic birdie at the final hole stopping Tom Watson from winning a record-equalling sixth title and uncorking a fist-pumping celebration that became his trademark.
And then there was the Ryder Cup as well — an event perfectly suited to the emotion and passion he wore on his sleeve throughout his playing days.
It is what it is thanks to Ballesteros more than anybody else. Indeed, European golf is what it is thanks to him more than anybody else.
Lough Erne Resort is laying down the gauntlet to all golfers this summer to take part in “The Faldo Challenge” and try to birdie the last three holes on the Championship Faldo Course to enter a prestigious lifetime Hall of Fame.
The Faldo Challenge is free to enter and any golfer who birdies the par-five 16th, par-four 17th and par-three 18th will be awarded membership of the exclusive “432 Club” and a personalised framed certificate signed by Sir Nick Faldo and Lough Erne’s touring professional Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy said: “The three finishing holes at Lough Erne are really spectacular and I think it is great that amateur golfers can challenge themselves to become a member of the 432 Club.”
For further information visit www.lougherneresort.com