Golf world remembers Seve Ballesteros
Masters Moments: 1980
Not surprisingly, many throughout the world of golf shared their favorite stories about Seve Ballesteros on the news of his death Saturday morning from complications of a cancerous brain tumor.
"What he did for European golf was what Tiger Woods did for worldwide golf. The European Tour would not be where it is now if it were not for Seve. His allegiance to the European Tour was admirable. I mean the guy was an icon; just an incredible golfer.
"I've always said most of us could shoot 65 in about 30 or 40 ways. He could do it about 10,000 different ways. He could miss every fairway, chip in five times, hole two bunker shots what a sad day today. He was so creative around the greens. It didn't matter if there was a tree or bunker, he'd figure out a way to get up and down.
"He and I had a great duel at Royal Lytham in 1988. It was a great day for each of us. I remember the seventh hole he made an eagle right on top of me. I remember after we played that hole that one of us was going to win because we were both playing so well that day and neither of us was going to back down.
"He was always very kind to me. Whatever you may have heard about him, his love for the game and his competitiveness was something I learned so much from. I don't want to say I idolized the guy but I respected him so much for the way he played the game because he could play the game like very few people. He really did. He had that beautiful smile that used to win over the hearts of all the women. He was just an incredible personality; a huge asset. I think all of us who played with him or spent any time with him are the richer for it."
Andy North, ESPN golf analyst
"I played quite a bit of golf with him over those years. He was really a special player. He had such a flair for the game. He was one of those players that the fans just bond to. They loved the way he played. He was aggressive, he was entertaining to watch. And I think that of all the players I played with, he probably had the best imagination of anybody I ever saw.
"He was fun to watch even when you were playing with him. He was one of the first [European] players that came over here and won. He won a couple of Masters so early in his career. He was the Rory McIlroy, the Sergio Garcia. He probably had a bigger impact on golf in Spain.
"He did some unbelievable things and worked with a number of good Spanish players that were coming along over several years of time and they all talked about looking up to him because he was their guy. He was important for golf in Europe but really, really important for golf in Spain.
"And then, he had an unbelievable effect on the Ryder Cup. I think if you look back, he won major championships of golf all over the world, but he had such a huge impact on the Ryder Cup. He was the straw that stirred their drink, basically, for all those years when they were so dominant."
Paul Azinger, ESPN golf analyst
"Seve was the most passionate player I have ever faced and the most patriotic. Tremendous flair for the game.
"Even though we've had some tense moments, we respected each other, and our differences were resolved after the '91 Ryder Cup. He was one of the first players to call me when I got sick [with cancer] in '93. We played a Shell Wonderful World of Golf match at St. Andrews in '95. One of the most talented and flamboyant players ever to play the game."
"It's a horrible deal. Seve played golf with a passion like no one else. He was an amazing golfer who did a lot of things for the game of golf. To lose his life at such an early age is sad.
"At the Masters dinner this year Jose Maria [Olazabal] got up and talked and gave an incredible talk about reminiscing about Seve and talked about growing up and idolizing Seve. It was very heartwarming. His desire to win; his fight and the ability to create and play shots was reminiscent of Palmer and Watson. He had a flair for the game that was quite amazing and that will always be remembered."
"He was a great inspiration. To be around him and play with him the few times I did. I just wish he had played in the United States a few more times. The people in the U.S. never really got to see Seve as the real magician and creative person he was on the golf course. He played the game like nobody else and sometimes from places nobody else did, but he didn't care.
"He was one of the first players to show that you didn't have to hit it on the button every time to score; if you had imagination, touch and an eye and feel for the game you could score. You can't teach that. You have to have that ingrained. With the way equipment is now, shots like his would be going straighter and would be easier to do. There won't be another Seve Ballesteros. He was a great innovator, and he changed the thinking of the game. He showed you could be really good without hitting it like Ben Hogan every time."
Curtis Strange, ESPN golf analyst
"He was such a big part of the game and a big part of my life, as well as most of us out here on the Champions Tour. He was a guy you didn't forget in more ways than one. I say that with a smile on my face.
"I don't remember going head-to-head in a tournament, but we did in the Ryder Cup. He was the backbone of the European Tour for so long. Seve was [the European Tour's] Arnold Palmer. We embellish the truth about things a lot of times but it is the absolute truth.
"They certainly have a lot more memories than we do of Seve, but that was a big part of it. Seve loved the stage and that was the part of being Seve. He played with a lot of emotion and he was in his element and he thrived on the competition of the Ryder Cup."
"He was one of the best players in the era in which I played. There were very few players who you could simply call by a name like Arnie, Jack or Lee and know who exactly it was. He was one of those guys. He was a name all around the world.
"His skills were maybe unmatched by anybody. His short-game skills around the green were unbelievable. I marveled at that. I saw him hit a bunker shot one time from a buried lie and he sounded like he hit it thin and it comes out with spin on it and it stopped on a dime. I asked him how he did it and he wouldn't tell me. I understand, and that was part of the mystique and the fence between the American players and Seve.
"I always thought Seve was one of the great shot-makers in our game and one of most colorful players I've witnessed in my career. He had the magnetism that drew people to him. I played with him in the last round of the '79 British Open and I'm leading and I watched the guy hit three fairways all day and win the British Open. It wasn't because he was lucky; it was because he created some shots that were unbelievable.
"As sad as I was, I look back and scratch my head and say 'How does he do it?' It wasn't an accident or luck; it was a skill factor he had."
"He always treated me really well; very kind. He was always a competitive guy and I always appreciated that he would say something nice and offer encouragement. He didn't have to do that, but he did.
"We played in the Ryder Cup in 1995 and I remember the heart he had. He hit it all over the map, but his short game was just magic. He kept himself in the match through 10 or 11 holes. Nobody could have done it with the places he hit it that day but he did. I always say it was the best nine holes I've ever seen on the front nine. He shot even par or something. I would have probably been 9-over.
"He had a great feel for the game. He never really seemed to doubt his ability, and that is what makes a champion."
"I don't think I ever beat the guy. He was, you know, he was unbelievable really. You know, kind of what I would call the modern-day Phil Mickelson, or he was Phil back then. He was just the best imagination, the best short game, you never really knew where he was going to hit it.
"I thought he had a great swing. I think I played him twice in the Ryder Cup and of course he was always with Jose Maria. Pretty sure I never -- I never beat him in a match. But yeah, you never know, you know? It's too bad. He was certainly awesome and really very charismatic, everything. Everybody loved watching him, for sure."
"It's a very sad day for golf. Seve was a great inspiration for not just European players but also American players. He was iconic as far as Spanish sports stars were concerned. He was the first major sports star to come out of Spain and that country has been a fantastic breeding ground for soccer, tennis and golf ever since.
"I was very friendly with Seve. Like what Arnold Palmer brought to the PGA Tour, Seve brought to the European Tour. I have so many memories of Seve but the one that stands out happened in Switzerland. One of the greatest shots I ever saw was when he played a shot at the 18th hole at Crans-sur-Sierre in the Swiss Open to eventually win. He was behind a wall and hit something like a 4-iron or a 2-iron from an 8-iron distance from the hole and he cut it around the wall. People who can remember the shot know exactly the type of shot he hit there. He was the original get-out-of-jail artist."
Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner
"All of us at the PGA Tour are very saddened to learn of the passing of Seve Ballesteros. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to the Ballesteros family and his many fans during this very sad time.
"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. A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Seve was truly an international icon, winning 87 tournaments worldwide, including five major championships.
"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.
"Seve Ballesteros' impact on golf will be felt long into the future, and we join his family and many friends in mourning his passing."
Jack Peter, World Golf Hall Of Fame
"On behalf of the Members of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum, our staff and volunteers are saddened to learn of the passing of Seve Ballesteros. His time came much too soon, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ballesteros family.
"With three Open Championships and two Masters to his credit, Seve was a champion of the highest order. But we will remember him as the dashing genius who never backed down from an impossible shot, an icon of European golf, a Ryder Cup legend and a good friend.
"Seve was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. To honor one of our great members, the Spanish flag at the Hall of Fame has been lowered to [half-staff] and a special tribute has been created in the Museum. We will salute Seve in Monday evening's Induction Ceremony and never forget the incredible impact he had on the game.
Peter is the senior vice president and chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum
Quotes provided by the PGA Tour were used in this report.
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Golf legend Seve Ballesteros -- who passed away Saturday at age 54 -- was part magician, part escape artist and all champion. Bob Harig