SEVE CELEBRATED AS THE ROYAL TROPHY VISIONARY


Royal Trophy tournament director Andy Yamanaka has led a series of heartfelt tributes to the “extraordinary vision and foresight” of Seve Ballesteros in setting up the annual golfing competition between Asia and Europe.
 
Yamanaka, who is also executive director of the Japan Golf Tour, described Seve as a pioneer, and vowed that his organisation would do everything in their power to ensure the Royal Trophy “continues to go from strength to strength”.
 
His words were echoed by Seve’s celebrated Ryder Cup partner and lifelong friend Jose Maria Olazabal, who is serving as European Captain for the third time at this week’s seventh edition of the Royal Trophy at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China.
 
Speaking at the pre–tournament press conference, Olazabal said: “This is part of Seve’s legacy, and as long as we in the golfing world continued to support the Royal Trophy, we will keep Seve’s memory alive.”
 
Ballesteros lost his brave fight against brain cancer two years ago, but Yamanaka commented: “Although he has passed away, he is still with us, and we must never forget this tournament was his idea, his dream.”
 
Yamanaka was greeted with loud applause as he expressed the Japan Golf Tour’s commitment to helping the Royal Trophy build on the remarkable success it has enjoyed in its first seven years.
 
He said: “I think this competition has been very meaningful for golf in all of Asia,  by giving our players the opportunity to compete against Europe, and to know what it feels like to play for your teammates, your captain, your country, and your continent.
 
“Playing for more than just yourself has brought something special to our players, and helped them to improve as golfers and as people.
 
“On behalf of the Japan Golf Tour I can say we are most happy to be involved in this great event, and we believe it will continue to grow, and go from strength to strength.
 
“This is Seve’s legacy to us, and we owe so much to him. This week is for Seve, this competition is for Seve.
 
“We need to continue to show the same will and desire he displayed, and to celebrate his extraordinary vision and foresight. That way this competition will continue to grow.”
 
Olazabal revealed that he had been with his fellow Spaniard when he first outlined his ambition of bringing Asia and Europe together in a Ryder Cup–style series of matches.
 
He explained: “That was in 2001, and Seve was very excited by the idea because he felt Asia had the greatest potential for golfing growth, and that it needed to be nurtured. I think we would all agree with that.
 
“It took him a few years to get it all together, but sure enough in 2006 we saw the first Royal Trophy, and fittingly Seve was here as Captain of the winning European Team.
 
“I was greatly honoured when he asked me to take on the role of Captain when he fell ill, and I quickly grew to share his passion for the competition. This is a strong event, and I know it has a very bright future.”
 
Another golfing great, Isao Aoki – the chairman of the Royal Trophy’s Asian Players’ Committee – added his own emotional tribute.
 
He said: “Seve was my best friend. I wish there was a Royal Trophy in my days as a player, and I am so impressed and so happy to see this great competition prepared so well by the passions and vision of Seve.
 
“This is a very significant and important competition, especially with the honour of playing for you countries and your continents, and I want the players to appreciate that. I am sure they do.”
 Those sentiments clearly moved Ivan Ballesteros, Seve’s nephew and co–managing director of the Royal Trophy.
 
He commented: “Like Jose Maria, I was fortunate enough t be present when Seve announced his vision for this competition. It is quite unbelievable how fast the time has flown by, and how much we have achieved thanks to Seve’s leadership.
 
“We must thank everyone in China and all of Asia for helping to put on this latest event. With the support we enjoy, who knows? – in time we may be talking about it as one of the world’s great sporting events.”
 
His co–managing director Lincoln Venancio assured Ivan that Seve’s position as the driving force in creating the Royal Trophy would always be treasured. He said: “This event will always be in honour of Seve, and I thank everyone who supports us in that.”

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