May 7th, 2011
03:01 PM ET

Spain's golfing maestro remembered

CNN’s Don Riddell with Seve in Tenerife back in 2005.
CNN’s Don Riddell with Seve in Tenerife back in 2005.

We all have our heroes, men or women who have inspired or entertained us. Very few of us are able to meet these people, even fewer can say they have experienced first hand their genius and charisma.

So I consider myself incredibly fortunate not just to have met Seve Ballesteros, but to have played golf with him; to have walked a fairway beside him, bantered with and taken tips from a man that transcended his sport and made an indelible mark upon it.

Towards the end of 2005, Seve was planning a comeback. He was designing golf courses, but that wasn’t enough to scratch the itch. He was missing the thrill of the chase and the roar of the crowds on a Sunday afternoon and it was for that reason that I got the chance to meet him in Tenerife in December.

Unfortunately, Seve was running late and he said he was too tired to record an interview that afternoon. All he wanted to do was relax on the golf course. Would we mind if we did an interview as we played? Would we mind?! Of course not!

And so I found myself standing on the tee, next to a living legend, dithering over a choice of clubs and praying that I wasn’t going to embarrass myself. Seve couldn’t have handled it better. He gave me some tips, even gave me his driver and was very complimentary when I knocked onto the fairway.

Seve won 87 titles in a glittering career, lifting the Claret Jug at the Open Championship three times and donning the green jacket at the Masters twice. He was the driving force in European golf, leading a revival in the Ryder Cup and helping to establish the European Tour as a global force.

Seve was a pioneer and he loved breaking down barriers. He wasn’t the most popular man in America when he started winning their tournaments but he loved hearing the jibes in the locker-room, “here comes the Spaniard to take all our money!”

But it wasn’t just the cheques that he banked or the titles that he won; it was how he won them. Seve often took the scenic route to the hole, making shots that others couldn’t even have imagined with skill that nobody else possessed.

As we approached the green in Tenerife, I discovered that my ball had come to rest just a couple of inches from a stone wall. A shot to the green was impossible, and I prepared to knock it back sideways onto the fairway. Seve was having none of it; he grabbed the wedge from my hand, turned his back to the hole and chipped it against the wall – onto the green. With a shrug of the shoulders, he returned my club. That was pure Seve. Creative, daring, brilliant.

Tragically, Seve’s comeback never came to much and within a couple of years he was involved in what he described as the toughest fight of his career. Four operations and a bout of chemotherapy was no match for the cancerous tumour on his brain and he succumbed at the age of just 54.

He told me that he’d like to be remembered as man that “fought for justice and for liberty”. Now that he’s gone, he’ll be remembered for so much more. Seve Ballesteros inspired, entertained and achieved true greatness. There will never be another and he will be sorely missed.

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Filed under:  Golf
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Tony

    Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Seve. Golfing genius is rare and to be treasured. RIP.

    May 7, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  2. Iris

    Thanks Seve for the way your lead your life and the passion you put playing Golf. Descansa en paz te echara mucho de menos.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:41 am | Reply
  3. Johnny of jakarta

    When he played, the world watched. RIP Seve.

    May 8, 2011 at 3:43 am | Reply
  4. Jigs

    farewell to a legend...

    May 8, 2011 at 5:27 am | Reply
  5. koos

    I agree, we lost an amazing player and a gentlemen in golf.
    I have seen him playing and always enjoyed the thrill he could put on the faiways and greens.
    I had the pleasure meeting him a couple of times in a gym in Santander. Even then with my limited spanish I was able to chat with him.
    We will miss him. Seve thanks for the wonderfull moment syou gave us.

    May 8, 2011 at 6:34 am | Reply
  6. Paul

    He was my golfing hero growing up. What a guy

    May 8, 2011 at 9:12 am | Reply
  7. Felipe

    Seve, you always be the greatest. Spain cry for you.

    May 8, 2011 at 9:58 am | Reply
  8. Ray

    I have seen Seve play on tour a few times and wherever he went he had the largest following on the course.Charismatic,charming,gifted, hard working honest yes,but he would be embarrassed I am sure at being labelled a hero.

    May 8, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  9. Pablo Muller

    Seve GRACIAS por haber sido y por todos los ratos que nos distes. !!

    May 8, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  10. Salvador

    Un Caballero del Golf, que vamos a extrañar. ¡Descanse en paz el Gran Severiano!

    May 8, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  11. Suzanne

    What a man and inspiration. He stood up for his sport and his part of the world, and for what was right, alongside being so handsome and such a personality. Had a hard time sleeping last night knowing he suffered in the last part of his life. RIP sir Seve, you're gone far far too soon.

    May 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  12. Javier

    Un ejemplo para todos. Hasta siempre, y alli donde estes, seguro que nos vemos algún dia. A example for everyone. Sure that someday we will see you there where you are

    May 8, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  13. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Respectful farewell to golfer Seve Ballesteros. May the Giver of life grant him eternal bliss.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Reply

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