Remembering Seve Ballesteros, Spain’s greatest-ever golfer

Seve: Spain's greatest ever, and one of the world's all-time greatest golfers.

After the fifth anniversary of the death of Seve Ballesteros, Spain’s greatest-ever golfer, here are some fascinating facts about the former champion, compiled by Tony Matthews:

  • Born Severiano Ballesteros Sota on 9 April, 1957, Pedrena, Spain; died also in Pedrena, 7 May, 2011.
  • From birth, Seve had a physical defect whereby his right shoulder hung down below his left. • He was just 10 when he played in his first tournament, taking 10 shots at the opening hole, eventually finishing 5th on 51 over par for nine holes.
  • At the age of 12, he was expelled from school for fighting and bad behaviour! • Seve started cycling when he was eight and later owned 12 bikes, using them to keep fit.
  • He enjoyed boxing as a youngster, and it was in the ring that he first injured his back, which caused him trouble throughout his golfing career.
  • He turned professional in April 1974 and played in his first ‘big’ tournament that same year – the Spanish Open at La Manga – carding rounds of 83 and 76, and missing the cut by six shots. American Jerry Heard won the event and collected £4,336. In contrast, Seve’s first professional wage was just £15.
  • In 1976, he finished joint second with Jack Nicklaus at the Open at Royal Birkdale… soon after bailing hay with his father and caddying for his brother Manuel. The winner that year was Johnny Miller.
  • Dick Draper, a British policeman, caddied for Seve in the mid 1970’s. • A Santander doctor, Cesar Campuzano, lent Seve $1,000 to help get him through his first year as a professional. Seve paid him back by giving him the ball he won the 1979 Open with.
  • Before the 1980 Masters, Seve walked the whole course, taking notes of every fairway and every green. • His favourite football team was Racing Santander. He was just an ordinary fan, who paid the entry fee and either stood on the terraces or sat in the stand with his mates. Nothing special.
  • During National Service, Seve earned £2-a-week teaching Air Force officers how to play golf!
  • In the 1985 Italian Open, Seve had eight birdies in a row and his third round score of 64 contained nine birdies and an eagle… a record at the time. 
  • The tattoo on Seve’s left arm showing him punching the air, was also painted on the door of his house.
  • In 1988, Seve married the daughter of the owner of Banco Santander, Carmen Botin, who was at the time, one of the richest women in Spain.
  • In May 2007, Seve played on the Champions Tour in Alabama. His first tee shot missed the 75-yard-wide fairway by a distance. He tried to thread his second shot through a six-foot gap; the ball struck a tree, rebounded into a bunker and he finished with a double bogey and a round of 78. With two more horrible rounds of 81 and 73, he finished joint last of 78 participants. He returned to Spain straight away!
  • On the professional golf circuit, Seve won 96 titles worldwide, including 50 around Europe, and after every victory, the bells of his home town church in Pedrena were rang in celebration.
  • For 20 years, Seve kept a .38 calibre pistol under his bed, in case intruders came in.
  • Seve is the only golfer to have ‘kept’ two Green Jackets from the Augusta Masters at his home.
  • Seve’s favourite actor was Charles Bronson; his favourite actress was Brooke Shields; he loved Miami Vice and was a huge fan of Julio Iglesias
  • When he died, Seve had no golf books in his living room, and only one golf video.
  • An old Spanish ballad, which locals from Pedrena still sing, contains the line ‘Oh, Severiano, you have left the English and Americans like destroyed eagles.’
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