To the mournful wail of a lone bagpipe, some of Europe's greatest golfers joined family, friends and residents in the tiny village of Pedrena yesterday for an emotional final tribute to golf legend Seve Ballesteros.
Ryder Cup captains Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Jose Maria Olazabal and players including Miguel Angel Jimenez marched together in silence as part of the procession from Ballesteros' family home to the church of San Pedro de Pedrena for the funeral.
Young boys and girls wore replicas of the navy blue outfit that Ballesteros wore for his first British Open win in 1979.
They each held a 3-iron, the only club Ballesteros owned when he learned to play golf.
About 400 people packed the church to provide Ballesteros with one final send-off before his ashes were spread under a magnolia tree, which he had planted at the family home in this tiny fishing village in northern Spain.
Ballesteros, a five-time major winner and Ryder Cup stalwart, died on Saturday aged 54 from a brain tumour.
“He was so young and such a great man. A great champion — the best Europe ever had,” Torrance said.
Ballesteros' oldest son Javier carried the urn holding the Spanish golf great's ashes at the front of the procession, with the sombre notes of a single bagpipe punctuating the occasion on an overcast day in the village off the Bay of Santander.
The crowd of up to 1,000 gathered outside the church burst into applause as Ballesteros' ashes reached the church.
Locals, friends and others watched from one of the three giant screens set up outside.
“With hard work he went from nothing to everything, realising his dream to be the best and to be in the heart of the people,” said nephew Ivan Ballesteros, who was flanked by Javier and his brother Miguel on the church altar.
“In the end he decided when and where it ended. Rest my friend, rest Seve.”
Relatives inside the church wept and embraced, and so did friends and Pedrena residents watching outside.
“It's not a goodbye — we know you'll always be here by our side,” Ballesteros' son Miguel said.
Ballesteros' brother Vicente picked up the urn — which had been set above two golf clubs and a golf ball at the foot of the altar — and carried it out of the church back to the family home.
A private family ceremony was held before the ashes were placed under the magnolia tree overlooking the nearby Real Club de Golf Pedrena course where his career began.
“We all wanted to be here to support Seve and wish him the best. We loved him, he was great,” Faldo said. “It's a sad time, we lost someone very special. European golf owes Seve a great debt. He was the best frontman we could have ever dreamed of.”
Homages to Ballesteros were found all along the procession route, mostly in the form of Spanish flags with black ribbons tied to them.
“His roots were here in Pedrena, he never forgot that,” said Asuncion Sota, a cousin of Ballesteros'.
“Seve may have passed but his soul lives on here forever.”