When I returned yesterday from my beach vacation, I learned through the press that Severiano Ballesteros had died the previous night, after suffering a serious worsening of their disease (a cancer of the brain) and against which he had been struggling since it was detected in March 2008.
He was 54, still a very young man, and as this great golfer was a true icon in my country in the 80 and 90 (as now could be Rafa Nadal, for example), although I've never been a fan of golf sport, I grew up witnessing their deeds and accomplishments, and for all that, his death has impressed me more. He was very popular and much loved in my country and perhaps even more outside our borders. And although I am still under my little blogging break I could not help writing this little post today to his memory, joining to all the tributes that he will be have around the world.
I just wanted to add a few lines more about their human side, which for me it is always the most interesting part in any people.
He was born in 1957 in Pedreña, a small town in Santander (northern Spain), where he grew up next to a golf course, the Royal Golf de Pedreña, a club opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1928, where he worked since very small as a caddy of other prestigious golfers and where he began to feel the itch for this sport and where all who saw him began to realize very quickly that he had a natural gift for golf. At 17 he began his career and since then the career of one of the best record in professional golf history began to be shaped: 2 Masters, 3 British Open, 6 Ryder Cup, 5 Match Play, British Order of Merit, Gold Medal of the Parliament of Cantabria, Prince of Asturias Award for Sports ...
Always hearty and with a broad smile on his face (though showing always a strong will too), his personal life was not, however, as fortunate as was his professional life. In 1987 he married Carmen Botin, a daughter of Emilio Botin, President of Santander Bank, one of the wealthiest families in Spain, had 3 children but after 16 years of marriage the heartbreak came and separated. A few years later, he tried to rebuild his life with a woman twenty years younger, but fate played another dirty trick, and 29 years girlfriend (and mother of a child of 13), would die shortly afterwards in a car accident in 2007, when they were preparing their upcoming wedding. Seve was quite concerned and later that year, perhaps pushed by several injuries, decided to retire from golf and was devoted to designing and organizing golf tournaments.
Finally, 3 years ago he would fight his last battle: doctors discovered two tumors in the brain the size of a golf ball, in the last three years he was operated four times on life and death and subjected to different treatments of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hard processes of rehabilitation and retraining in order to start over from scratch, and even created a Foundation that bears his name, to collect benefits in the fight against cancer and to support young people who started playing golf. I even remember that very recently I saw a TV program on medicine and surgery and he came out in the program talking about the operation that it was done to him and encouraging, at the same time, a 16 years old girl who was going to have made similar surgery, to fight like him. I hope this girl has all the best of luck and keep fighting!
Lately, it seemed that the hardest thing was over and that his strength and courage had coped with his illness, fighting like a young wild boar to get his last Masters, sadly he has not been able to win.
He will always be remembered as the man who democratized golf,
a sport considered as elitist, until he started to play it.
Seve (as he was known by his many loyal British fans) has gone,
but he will always be in our memory
11th, May 2011
A moving memorial service took place today in honor of Seve Ballesteros, in Pedreña, his home town. Seve's brother, Baldomero Ballesteros, was quoted as saying: "The funeral rites will be as simple as those for any neighbour from the village. He was born here and here he will remain."
Ryder Cup captains Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Jose Maria Olazabal were part of the procession led by the Ballesteros family to their local San Pedro church.
Hundreds of mourners applauded as the procession, headed by his children Javier (carrying the urn holding his father's ashes), Carmen (clutching the magnolia flower he had chosen himself to be placed in front of the altar) and Miguel (declaring in church: "Papa, as you can see, Javier, Carmen and me are strong, just like you asked us. For us it is not a day to say goodbye, we know you are by our side and we will always be by yours. We love you, dad"). And leading by a Scot bagpiper, knowing Ballesteros's love of Scotland- entered the church after a 10-minute walk from his house overlooking the Bay of Biscay.
Members of the local rowing club provided a guard of honour with raised oars - his father had been a rower and trainer at the lub which carries his name - and they passed houses which had Spain flags hanging from balconies embossed with black ribbons. Also children of the Seve Ballesteros Foundation carried three irons aloft to signify the club with which he started practising as a child.
English golfer Tony Jacklin said "I've only met two people in my life with such charisma. One was Arnold (Palmer) and the other was Seve." And Jack Nicklaus, who retired with a record 18 major titles, said the world of golf had lost "a great entertainer and ambassador". Nick Faldo also added: "There will never be another Seve. He had everything - the good looks, the charisma, the smile, the walk and the swash-buckling golf game. It's been a pretty special day".
A genius and a legend, rest in peace Seve Ballesteros