TRIBUTE TO THE ROYAL TROPHY FOUNDER AND LEGENDARY GOLFER SEVERIANO BALLESTEROS 9 April 1957 – 7 May 2011


GOLFING WORLD SADDENED BY SEVE’S DEATH

The world of golf is in mourning for Seve Ballesteros, the legendary five-times Major champion and founder of the Royal Trophy.

Seve died at his home in Pedrena, northern Spain, at the age of 54, following a brave two-and-a-half year battle to regain full health after he underwent surgery to remove a cancerous brain tumour.

Golfers and lovers of the game everywhere were shocked and saddened by the news, and tributes have flooded in for the most exciting and best-loved player the game has ever seen.

Tiger Woods led the acclaim for the Spanish maestro, commenting: “I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Seve Ballesteros. I always enjoyed spending time with him at the Champions dinner each year at the Masters.

“Seve was one of the most talented and exciting golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”

The man who replaced Woods as world number one, Lee Westwood, also voiced his sorrow at the death of the golfing great who was his winning Ryder Cup captain when the Englishman made his debut at Valderrama in 1997.

Westwood said: “It’s a sad day. I have lost an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve.”

And it was not just golfers who mourned Seve’s passing. His status as a Spanish icon was recognised with a heartfelt tribute from the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

He said: “I would like to express my deepest condolences on the death of Severiano Ballesteros – one of the finest golfers of all time and a legend in world sport.

“Severiano represented a beginning and an end in the history of Spanish sport. His example paved the way for the extraordinary success our sport is currently enjoying.

“He was the mirror which Spanish athletes who have reached the pinnacle of world sport looked into. Severiano was loved and respected for his great charisma and strength, which he showed until the very end of his life.”

Golf does not become an Olympic sport again until 2016 after a break of more than 100 years, but International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge spoke about the golfing great too.

He commented: “Seve Ballesteros was a man of incredible skill, charisma and courage as a sportsman.

“And the dignified way that he fought against the disease was characteristic of the man and was an inspiration to us all.

“He was a ‘once-in-a-generation athlete’ in his sport, and his influence on the game will live long after him.

“On behalf of the Olympic Movement I would like to send our condolences to his family but also our huge appreciation for the life of a remarkable man.”

Seve will be remembered for his boundless charisma, his breath-taking shot-making ability, and for his tireless efforts to make golf a truly global sport.

It was his triumphs in America – which included becoming the first European to win the Masters in 1980, an achievement he would repeat three years later – that forced the US tour to welcome more overseas players, especially into the Majors.

His 87 victories included a record-breaking fifty on the European Tour, but he also won events in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Kenya, and South Africa.

And when the Ryder Cup was thrown open to European players in 1979, instead of just those from Great Britain and Ireland, a glorious new chapter was about to be written in Seve’s illustrious career.

He helped to transform the competition from an American walkover into one of the most eagerly-anticipated events on the sporting calendar, attracting an enormous worldwide audience dwarfed only by two other events – the football World Cup, and the Olympic Games.

With Seve providing the inspiration, Europe began to gain the upper hand, and have won eight of the last 10 matches against the USA.

Seve played on five winning teams, and became the first golfer to double up as a winning captain, leading Europe to a famous victory on Spanish soil at Valderrama in 1997. His passion for the Ryder Cup led Seve to undertake what was to prove his final major golfing project – establishing a similar competition between the finest golfers from Europe and Asia.

He was the driving force behind the Royal Trophy, which became a reality in 2006 with a memorable first match won 9-7 by an European team that included such golfing greats as Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam.

Seve proudly predicted: “The Royal Trophy has a great future ahead, and as I have said before, I feel the Royal Trophy will change the face of Asian golf and help to make it much stronger, just as the Ryder Cup did for Europe.

“I believe the Royal Trophy will grow into one of world’s greatest sporting competitions.”

And how right he was. The Royal Trophy has mushroomed into one of golf’s most compelling spectacles, with Asia gaining their first victory in 2009, and then falling victim to one of the most stunning comebacks any sporting event has witnessed earlier this year.

Colin Montgomerie’s team overturned a 6-2 deficit on the final day by winning the singles session 7-1, giving them a famous 9-7 success.

Seve sent a message to both teams saying he had been held spellbound by the three days of high octane golf, and was even more proud of his association with the event.

As golfers in Asia join those in Europe and throughout the world in mourning the passing of a true sporting legend, the Royal Trophy family are determined the competition will continue to grow in strength as an important element of Seve’s unique golfing legacy.

It is what the Spanish great would have wanted.

By Mr. David Facey,
9 May 2011

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