Saying goodbye to my hero and friend, Seve Ballesteros

May 9, 2011

Seve Ballesteros was a personal friend of mine and we worked together on several occasions. We exchanged emails just two weeks ago. It is a very sad time for me. I lost a friend and my hero in golf.

On Friday, my wife and I were driving on I-95 when I heard the news that Seve’s condition had worsened. My mind instantly went back to when I worked at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., in the early 1990s. There was a knock on my office door. When I looked up, I saw Seve. He asked in a cool Spanish accent, “Are you Tom Patri?” Suddenly I felt like a school boy scared to death of the principal. I said, “Yes, sir”. Seve then introduced himself (as if that was necessary!). He asked me if I could watch him hit some balls. My knees were physically shaking, my mouth went dry, and my palms began to sweat.

During this first meeting and the several other times we worked together, Seve helped me far more with my teaching then I ever helped him with his golf game. He was a wonderfully gifted feel player, so we related very well. Seve also had a wealth of knowledge and a deep passion to share it. Not many people of his stature would take the time to share as he did.

Often misunderstood during his playing days, Seve was truly a kind, respectful, yet ever so passionate man who valued your time and his relationships. Let’s face it, I was a very tiny part of the time he spent with many different coaches. Yet every year since that first meeting, I received a Christmas card with a warm message from Seve. After his Ryder Cup victory as captain, he sent me a beautiful letter which is framed in my office.

As a friend, Seve was kind, he cared, and he shared. As a player, he changed the historical landscape of the game. European golf had no pulse, and Seve revived it. The Ryder Cup was all but dead until Seve single-handedly breathed life into it, and now it is one of the great events in all of sports. In 1999, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. This week he passed from this world much too young. As human beings, we have such trouble justifying young death. As a believer in something beyond this life, it is clear to me the Lord was in desperate need of short-game help and called the genius of Seve to his side.

When I learned of his passing I cried like a baby. I cried for some time. The passion he shared with me came pouring out.

God bless you, Seve, we all will miss you. I’m heartbroken, but so privileged to have known you.