Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

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 signs autographs during a game in Northern Ireland
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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