In fond memory
Severiano Ballesteros was Spain’s greatest golfer, one of the sport’s most popular players and a hero of European golf. Widely acclaimed as one of the most charismatic figures in the history of golf, he is also regarded as one of the finest ever exponents around the green. The man who became known as the Matador of the Links has been a brilliant improviser and manufacturer of golf shots, often from seemingly impossible positions.
One of four golf-playing brothers, Ballesteros, like many other golfers, grew up with golf. His uncle was the professional at his local club and he himself caddied there. From the age of eight, he would sneak onto the course and play a few holes. In 1973, aged 16, he turned professional and brought a freshness and intensity to the game not seen since the Arnold Palmer era.
Ballesteros first came to prominence in 1976 when, at the age of 19, he finished second to American Johnny Miller in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. He went on to win three Open Championships in 1979, 1984 and 1988, as well as two US Masters in 1980 and 1983.
He helped Spain win the World Cup in 1976 and 1977 and he triumphed in the World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth five times. On the European Tour, he was one of the major attractions for two decades. He has won four French Opens, two German Open titles and a hat-trick of wins in the Spanish, Dutch, Swiss and Irish Opens. He has won 87 tournaments on five continents, including the Westchester Classic on the US Tour in 1983 and 1988. In recent years, a severe back problem has limited his playing opportunities.
One of Ballesteros’ most significant achievements was the role he played in the re-emergence of European golf, particularly through its revival in the Ryder Cup matches against the United States. As one of the world's greatest match-players, he won 20 points from 37 games against the United States. His partnership with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal was the most successful in the history of the competition, with 11 wins and two halved matches from 15 played. He was an inspirational captain in Europe's retention of the Ryder Cup at Valderrama in 1997. On his native Spanish soil, Ballesteros’ passion and tireless leadership delivered a brilliant victory.