Severiano Ballesteros was without a doubt the favorite and most inspiring subject in my career as a golf photographer. During my 30 years walking the fairways, there have been only three golfers (Seve, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods) who each and every day I went out to shoot would give me a memorable photograph to capture.
Whether it was a smile, a scowl, a serious moment or a great action image, it did not matter. The eyes told the story — the unrivalled passion for the game of golf. It’s a passion I share every day of my life, and I very much miss Seve’s being around as a person, let alone as a subject.
I actually met Seve in 1976, three years before I picked up a serious camera for the first time in my life. I was lucky enough to have drawn Seve as my professional in a pro-am at my home club, The Leicestershire Golf Club. I was the “young buck” of the club, a county golfer playing off scratch; he was the almost unknown brother of Manuel, a regular player on the tour. I remember that day so well, from the moment Manuel introduced us and I was greeted with that incredible smile, a smile that unbeknownst to me I was going to be privileged to capture on film in the years to come.
Two months later, he played that memorable chip shot threaded through the brown, lightning-fast bumps and hollows between two treacherous bunkers from left of the green on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale to secure second place in the Open to Johnny Miller. This shot announced Seve to the world of golf and showed his creative genius that to this day has not been rivalled in the game. Tiger Woods can and has played incredible golf shots, but I see no comparison to Seve for the ability to shape and pull off shots of unthinkable genius.
Such a sad day. Knowing Seve and his determination, he will not have given up lightly. Hopefully now he will have found his peace and will be charming the world up there with the greatest smile a photographer could ever photograph. How lucky and extremely privileged I was to have known him as a player and subject, but most of all as a friend. The split seconds of his life that I have been able to capture on film are moments of the career of a genius in a sport that I love.
There are so many memories of photographing Seve that it’s hard to isolate the moments. Suffice to say the images tell the best story.