Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 June 2015

My unforgettable glimpse of a golfing genius Seve Ballesteros at work

Michael Conaghan was 18 years old and a member of Moyola Golf Club when it welcomed superstar Seve Ballesteros to the course 30 years ago. It's a day that has been etched in the mind of the keen amateur golfer

Seve Ballesteros's score card at Moyola Golf Club.
Seve Ballesteros's score card at Moyola Golf Club.
Seve Ballesteros signs autographs during a game in Northern Ireland
Spanish golf legend Seve Ballesteroshas died at the age of 54
(FILE PHOTO) The family of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros have announced on May 6, 2011 that his health is worsening, following his battle with a brain tumour in 2008.Jose-Maria Olazabal of Spain uses the shoulders of Seve Ballesteros also of Spain to get a better view during the 29th Ryder Cup Matches on 28th September 1991 at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, USA. The USA team defeated Europe with a score of 14.5pts - 13.5pts. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) The family of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros have announced on May 6, 2011 that his health is worsening, following his battle with a brain tumour in 2008.Jul 1988: Seve Ballesteros in full cry during the British Open at Royal Lytham St Annes Golf Course in England. Ballesteros went on to win the Open title. \ Mandatory Credit: Dave Cannon /Allsport
(FILE PHOTO) The family of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros have announced on May 6, 2011 that his health is worsening, following his battle with a brain tumour in 2008.1984: Seve Ballesteros of Spain holds the Claret Jug aloft after winning the British Open at St. Andrews Golf Club in Scotland. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon/Allsport
(FILE PHOTO) The family of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros have announced on May 6, 2011 that his health is worsening, following his battle with a brain tumour in 2008.19 OCT 1993: SEVE BALLESTEROS OF SPAIN PLAYS A TEE SHOT DURING A SLAZENGER DAY AT WISLEY GOLF CLUB IN SURREY ENGLAND. BALLESTEROS IS SEEN IN SILHOUETTE IN FRONT OF A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET WHILST COMPLETING HIS ROUND.
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 28 Sep 1997: European team captain Seve Ballesteros proudly holds the trophy after victory over the USA in the Johnnie Walker Ryder Cup at the Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande in Spain. \ Mandatory Credit: Stephen Munday /Allsport
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 07: Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain wears a black ribbon on the first tee, following news of the death of Seve Ballesteros, during the third round of the Open de Espana at the Real Club de Golf El Prat on May 7 , 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 Seve Ballesteros of Spain acknowledges the crowd after holing his putt on the 18th green to win the British Open at the Royal Lytham Golf Club in Lancashire, England, July 21, 1979. \ Mandatory Credit: Steve Powell/Allsport
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 Spanish golfer Severiano Ballesteros in his home town of Pedrena, Spain, with the Ryder Cup, June 1997. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 15 Sep 1985: (L to R) Manuel Pinero, Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Canizares and Jose Rivero of the European team hold the trophy after victory over the USA in the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England. \ Mandatory Credit: David Cannon /Allsport
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 KILLENARD, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Nick Faldo, Captain of The Great Britain and Ireland Team with Seve Ballesteros, Captain of The European Team during the third day morning greensomes at the Seve Trophy 2007 held at The Heritage Golf and Spa Resort on September 29, 2007 in Killenard, Ireland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) Spanish Golf Legend Seve Ballesteros Dies At 54.Charismatic former World No. 1, five time Major winner, five time Ryder Cup winner, both as a player and as captainand winner of the European Tour's Order of Merit on six occasions.http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=113809426 KILLENARD, IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Seve Ballesteros, Captain of The European Team, plays a bunker shot during the Pro-Am for the Seve Trophy 2007 held at The Heritage Golf and Country Club on September 26, 2007 in Killenard, Ireland. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Spanish golfer Severiano "Seve" Ballesteros at the Royal Dublin Golf Club, during the Irish Open, 20th July 1986. The golfing great died May 6, 2011 after a two-year battle following being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, according to published reports. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO) The family of golfing legend Seve Ballesteros have announced on May 6, 2011 that his health is worsening, following his battle with a brain tumour in 2008.28 Sep 1997: European team captain Seve Ballesteros proudly holds the trophy after victory over the USA in the Johnnie Walker Ryder Cup at the Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande in Spain. \ Mandatory Credit: Rusty Jarrett /Allsport
Seve Ballesteros with the claret jug after winning the 1984 Open
Seve Ballesteros, Captain of The European Team reacts to a putt during the Pro-Am for the Seve Trophy 2007 held at The Heritage Golf and Country Club on September 26, 2007 in Killenard, Ireland.
Seve Ballesteros, left, gets the Masters green jacket from last year's winner, Fuzzy Zoeller, after winning the 1980 Masters in Augusta, Ga., in this April 13, 1980.
Seve Ballesteros: Golf/ At Moyola Park Golf Club. 4/8/1980 All eyes on Seve - and the ball - when he paraded his vast array of skills at Castledawson.
Seve Ballesteros: Golf/ At Moyola Park Golf Club. 4/8/1980 Young autograph hunters surround the Spanish star.
26 Sep 1987: Seve Ballesteros of the European team celebrates with captain Tony Jacklin during the Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village GC in Dublin, Ohio, USA.
Seve Ballesteros tips his visor to the gallery as they sing happy birthday to him on the 9th hole of the Par-3 Tournament, prior to The Masters, at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., in this April 9, 2003
Golf legend Seve Ballesteros waves as he appears in public for the first time after surgery on a cancerous brain tumor next to Racing de Santander's president Miguel Angel Revilla, right, before a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Racing de Santander and Almeria at the Sardinero stadium in Santander, Spain, on Sunday , May 3, 2009.

We feel our age when our sporting heroes die, more so if they die relatively young, like Severiano Ballesteros, losing his battle with brain cancer aged just 54.

The television age gives us so many memories of these people in their visceral prime, we barely get time to register the fact of their decline before they are gone.

With Seve, the gap was more than usually brief. Illness had forced him into early retirement.

Seve was one of the few sporting giants I was privileged to see in the flesh, the day he came to help inaugurate the new course at Moyola Golf Club in Castledawson.

It was August 1980, and Ballesteros was still in his hip young gunslinger phase, where as he put it, he dreamed of not just 'winning majors, but winning them by 10 shots'.

Playing with Seve that day were the impressive English amateur champion Peter McEvoy and the excellent Irish player Des Smyth, both determined not to be upstaged. He hit the ball miles but it was only after a few holes that I began to notice he was playing quite conservatively, making pars, indulging in the odd bit of joshing with his playing partners.

It was as if the course was a minor distraction which didn't require all his concentration. But then, within a couple of holes, his innate showmanship came to the fore. Crossing a potentially treacherous 'B' road to the 6th and 7th holes, he chipped in at the first, and holed a monster putt at the other. I wonder if he thought that ripping the course apart would insult his hosts?

After his last putt he was surrounded by autograph hunters and seemed to disappear back into that isolating world of sporting superstardom, created by the genius of which that day he had given us a tantalising glimpse.

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