May 12, 2011

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Golf world loses a legend

By: Joe Williams

The golf world lost one of its greats last week when Seve Ballesteros lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 54.

He is one of the few that have held the number one spot in the world rankings. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. He had 91 professional wins including five major championships.

It wasn’t just the wins that made Ballesteros great. It was the way he played to win that made him so memorable.

PGA President Allen Wronowski said in a statement: “In every generation, there appears one performer in sport who stands out above another for more than just ability alone. 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 teammates 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.”

Much like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods do today, Ballesteros routinely pulled off shots that others wouldn’t dare to try. As Tiger Woods said on Twitter, “Seve was one of the most talented and excited golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is what he did for European golf. He was the reason the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include continental Europe. He had a 20-12-5 record in eight appearances in the Ryder Cup and turned the tide in Europe’s favor. He teamed with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal to form a nearly unbeatable team that became known as “The Spanish Armada”. He also led Europe to victory in 1997 as team captain. He is the epitome of the spirit of the Ryder Cup.

Today’s No. 1 player in the world, Lee Westwood, said on Twitter, “Seve made European golf what it is today.”

Seve was a unique blend of talent, charisma, desire and fearlessness. He hit numerous shots that will never be forgotten. And neither will he. Golf was never the same because of Seve and it will not be the same without him.