Seve Ballesteros would have turned 61 this past Monday, a day after the 82nd Masters.
Our paths crossed often, one of the perks of being a young golf writer in the 70s.
He often caught me late on the practice range. He’d be the last one there, just about everyone gone home, except for that young golf writer.
Always stood far enough away as to not disturb him. But he always knew I was there.
On one of those late sessions, he stopped, turned, walked over and asked: “Wazzz you thing?” Which was Seve for: “What do you think?”
What did I think of Seve’s golf swing? How’d you like for a legend to ask you that question?
Dumbfounded for a moment, I simply blurted: “You’re Seve and I’m not!”
Huge laugh, huge smile from the young Spaniard.
It was one of life’s pleasures to watch him grow in game and stature over the years.
His triumphs at The Open Championship were most memorable.
It was at The Open that Seve first announced himself on the international stage in 1976, two years after he turned professional at the tender age of 16.
Playing in just his second major after missing the cut at Carnoustie a year earlier, the then 19-year-old Seve led by two shots after the third round at Royal Birkdale.
He struggled to a two-over 74 in the final round to tie with Jack Nicklaus in second, as American Johnny Miller took advantage to claim the Claret Jug by six shots.
In the years between his first and second Open Championships, Seve became the first European to win the Masters in 1980, before repeating the feat in 1983 and became part of the history and lore at Augusta National.
The photo of Seve on the 18th green at St. Andrews at the 1984 Open Championship, pumping his fist in joy has become an iconic image in golf.
Seve’s final Open triumph came four years later in an epic duel with Nick Price.
In a first for The Open, heavy rain on Saturday at Royal Lytham & St Annes dictateda first-ever Monday finish.
Returning to the scene of his first major win, Seve led the way after the first round before Price took the lead going into that final day. He was two shots better than Seve after 54 holes.
The stage was set for a titanic battle and the two players delivered one of the great duels in the tournament’s history as Seve produced “the round of my life” to beat Price by two strokes.
His thrilling final round of 65 saw him play the six holes leading up to the 11th in six under par, while the short-game master almost chipped in on the last as he sealed his third – and final – Open Championship crown.
Seve WAS European golf.
Charisma should have been his middle name.
I still miss those early evenings on the tournament range.
And I will always miss Seve.