In his heyday Seve Ballesteros would periodically
give us Statesiders a chance
to know him. Never amounted
to much. He’d play our windless
courses and eat our dull food
and retreat quickly to his home
in Spain and to his tour in Europe,
where he was king.
Ballesteros is returning to our
shores, not to give us a chance
but to give himself one.
On the Monday after the Masters he turned 50, and this week
he’s scheduled to play in a
Champions tour event called the
Regions Charity Classic in Birmingham.
He plans to play the
Champions tour regularly for
the rest of the season, but don’t
expect too much. At Augusta this
year — where he entered for the
first time after a three-year selfimposed
exile — he shot rounds
of 86 and 80 and missed the cut
by 14 shots. Hank Haney observed
recently that Seve has the
Of course, the
senior circuit has no cut, and
the RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge
is not Augusta. Still. . . .
He can’t go out this way,
struggling to break 80. He looks
great, but he’s an old 50. He
was a pro at 16, he was winning
at 19, and at 40 he was weary.
Fred Funk was young at 40, and
now Seve, a Hall of Famer, can’t
Seve’s here because there’s
nowhere else for him to go. He’s
so mad at the European tour for
various slights, insults, penalties
and fines over the years that
he won’t play the European
senior tour. So there he’ll be next
week, chasing Dr. Dirt (Brad Bryant), last year’s winner of
the Birmingham event. Seve’s
not coming here to hang out.
Chip Beck, Tom Purtzer, Bobby Wadkins — these are not his
He’s coming here to
make a score. Can you find your
game at 50? Not likely.
But Seve’s life, more than
most, is rooted in optimism — his many escape shots the proof
If you came to golf in the
Tiger years, it would be hard for
you to understand how thrilling
Seve was through the Thatcher/Reagan years.
He was nothing
like Woods, who is technically
superior, but Seve had it
all over Tiger in one area: style.
Seve looked as if he was winning
on will alone. Tiger beats
you because he’s better in every
Seve — at Augusta in
1980 and ’83, at the British
Open in ’79, ’84 and ’88, in all
of his Ryder Cups (the three
events that matter in Europe) — looked as if he wanted it more
than anyone else.
quaked in Seve’s presence
because he craved the questionable
drop more than they
dared to stand up to him.
Many American golf watchers
never really got him, and
nothing will change now. The
stakes are too low.
It was a nice
moment when Jerry Pate, sober
and God-loving, won the senior
event in Tampa last year, but
that was mostly a personal victory.
What fans remember is
brash Jerry Pate winning that
U.S. Open in ’76, making that
swing at the end, five-iron in
his hands, the whole world
watching. That’s what makes a
golfer a legend. Seve’s a true
legend. Nobody ever talked
about Seve’s swing coaches. We
saw the swings he made, and
that was enough for us. But as
this fresh start indicates, not
enough for him.