Charismatic “People’s Champion” Seve Ballesteros dies

May 7, 2011

Ask anyone you know you has attempted the game of golf “Which golfer’s style would you most like to copy?” and they will most likely say the dazzling Severiano Ballesteros.

The Spaniard’s flare and touch were what stood him apart, and here follows reaction from his friends and rivals. There will never be anyone quite like him again.

Record 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus: “Today golf lost a great champion and a great friend. We also lost a great entertainer and ambassador for our sport. I have always had wonderful respect for Seve’s ability, how he played the game, and the flair he brought to the sport. It was his creativity, his imagination and his desire to compete which made him so popular not only in Europe but throughout American galleries too.

“He was a great entertainer. No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained. Seve’s enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game…Seve was, without argument, a terrific player — his record speaks for itself — but more important was his influence on the game especially throughout Europe.

“Through the years his involvement with the Ryder Cup, as both a player and captain, served to further elevate the stature of the matches. He was probably the most passionate Ryder Cup player we’ve ever had. I think his team mates always rallied around him and that passion of his. He was Europe’s emotional and spiritual leader, the heart and soul of their team. The Ryder Cup was something that was very, very special to Seve and Seve was very special to us.” — Statement.

Fourteen-times major champion Tiger Woods: “I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Seve Ballesteros. I always enjoyed spending time with him at the Champions dinner each year at the U.S. Masters. Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.” — Twitter.

Six-times major winner Nick Faldo: “He was a leader; bringing the spotlight to the European Tour, paving the way to European success at the Masters and bringing his relentless passion to the Ryder Cup. Today I would call him Cirque du Soleil. For golf he was the greatest show on earth. I was a fan and so fortunate I had a front row seat.” — Statement.

 Twice major champion and compatriot Jose Maria Olazabal: What impressed me most in Seve was his strength, his fighting spirit and the passion he put into everything he did. The best tribute we can pay to Seve is to go on playing for him although no tribute will ever do justice to everything he did for golf and to everything he gave us.” — Told reporters at Spanish Open.

 Ryder Cup player and compatriot Miguel Angel Jimenez: “He was outstanding for his determination and his passion in everything he did. He never gave up, he always found a way out.” — Told reporters at Spanish Open.

 World number one Lee Westwood: “It’s a sad day, lost an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve.” — Twitter.

 European Tour chief executive George O’Grady: “Seve’s unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support and play golf and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion and fierce determination.

“We have all been so blessed to live in his era. He was the inspiration behind the European Tour.” — Statement.

Three-times major winner Ernie Els: “Seve was an absolute hero of mine and I modelled so much of my game on him. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play with him many times and the most memorable was our battle in the (second round) of the World Match Play of 1994. It was an unforgettable day and I feel honoured I was able to share centre stage with him. Seve was a very proud man in golf and in life in general. He never backed down from a challenge. The world of golf has lost one of its greatest heroes.” — Statement.

 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III: “He was an icon in the game and somebody I looked up to. I copied his swing. Everybody wanted to be as exciting and fun and flashy as Seve.

Maybe (he could have) hit a few more fairways but everybody wanted that style. They wanted to be aggressive and able to play like that.” — Told reporters at Quail Hollow Championship.

 Dave Musgrove, Ballesteros’s caddie for his first major victory at the 1979 British Open: “Seve was a hard task-master, very hard on his caddies. He was hard on himself as well though. He was always off to find a battle somewhere. If he hit a bad shot he never dwelt on it. His shoulders never slumped. If he could see the ball and get a swing on it he’d never worry about it and if he went in a bunker he looked upon it as an advantage.” — Told Reuters at the Spanish Open.

 Former European Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher: “Every European Tour player today should thank Seve for what they’re playing for. America had Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer — Seve was our Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus rolled into one.” — European Tour website.

 European Tour chief referee John Paramor, who famously clashed with Ballesteros in the Volvo Masters in 1995: “I had many a tussle with him … the most famous occasion was at the 18th at Valderrama in the Volvo Masters when Seve’s ball finished up in the roots of a tree. He claimed relief for his ball lying where a burrowing animal had been but I didn’t agree.

We ’discussed’ it for about half an hour then he had to play the shot from where his ball lay. He never held a grudge against me for it.

“I had huge respect for him. Seve did so much for the European Tour in the way he played and promoted the game. There was an aura about the man.” — Told Reuters at the Spanish Open.

 Former European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie: “It’s a great loss — for Spain, Europe and the world of golf. We may never see such a talent again. We’ve lost one of the great icons of the sport.

“There are a lot of guys out here swinging golf clubs because of Seve. This tour would not have the strength and depth it has if it were not for him.” — Told reporters at Spanish Open.

 Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: “I would like to express my deepest condolences on the death of Severiano Ballesteros, one of the finest golfers of all time and a legend in world sport.

“Severiano represented a beginning and an end in the history of Spanish sport: his example paved the way for the extraordinary success our sport is currently enjoying.

“He was the mirror which Spanish athletes who have reached the pinnacle of world sport looked into. Severiano was loved and respected for his great charisma and strength which he showed until the very end of his life.” — Statement.

 International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge: “Seve Ballesteros was a man of incredible skill, charisma and courage as a sportsman and the dignified way he fought against his disease was characteristic of the man and was an inspiration to us all.

“He was a ‘once in a generation athlete’ in his sport and his influence on the game will live long after him. On behalf of the Olympic Movement I would like to send our condolences to his family but also our huge appreciation for the life of a remarkable man.” — Statement.

 PGA of America president Allen Wronowski: “Seve Ballesteros the gallant warrior from Pedrena, Spain was the ultimate competitor. We were fortunate to have had him choose golf where he did more than win championships but proudly became an ambassador for our sport’s global appeal. Seve played with a rare combination of talent and heart and his intensity endeared him to his team mates in the Ryder Cup, a competition that elevated his talent and leadership. As long as the pipes may play to call teams together for the Ryder Cup they will play for Seve. We shall miss him dearly and we mourn with his family and his many friends and fans throughout the world.” – Statement.

U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem: “For more than 30 years Seve had a large impact on the game and inspired many players with his creativity and flair on and off the golf course. His influence on the Ryder Cup was transformational as his exceptional abilities as a player helped lead to the inclusion of continental European players which up until 1979 had been excluded from the team made up of those from Great Britain and Ireland. Some of the greatest moments in Ryder Cup history featured Seve, either as a player on one of the eight teams he played on or as captain of the victorious 1997 team in his home country of Spain.” — Statement.

Picture: Seve Ballesteros of Spain peeks from a sand trap as he lines up his chip shot on the seventh hole, during the first round of Masters play at the Augusta National Golf Club April 9, 1998.

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