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seve ballesteros
vivid memories
green keepers
loyal friend
money talks
car parks
Seve Ballesteros - My Tribute
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I have just heard the very sad news of the passing of one of the greats of golf. I feel I have to pay a tribute to the man who was many things to many people and a very good and loyal friend to his South African fans - and I am sure all his fans all over the world.

Seve was 2 years younger than me but I always thought of him as my hero.

With his "never say die" attitude Seve would boldly go where no green-keepers would fear to tread.

He was the epitome of the golfing rebel with the confidence to match.

I am not going to talk too much of his golfing achievements or his crazy shots from car parks and other places not designed as part of the golf course. Instead I want to mention a few little anecdotes that I can recall.

My most vivid memories of Seve are from the Nedbank Million Dollar Challenge played in Sun City in what was then Bophuthatswana (part of South Africa for those who don't know).

At the time South Africa was totally isolated from world sport and Sol Kerzner, a millionaire businessman who conceived the idea of building a casino in one of South Africa's satellite African Homelands, decided that we needed an unusual tournament that would attract the world's top players.

Money talks - so Kerzner came up with the first ever One Million (US) Dollar tournament.

The field was limited to ten players (preferably the worlds top ten) with the last placed player earning something like $50,000.00. I think the winner took home $300,000.00 which was a lot of money in those days. Still is as far as I am concerned!

Seve was invited and was one of the first to accept.

If I remember correctly he won the first event and went on to win two more. But Seve was not content with a million dollar purse shared among ten players. No sir! Seve recommended to Sol that the "winner should take all" - arguing that this would make it a truly unique tournament.

He never got his way but soon afterward the tournament increased the prize money so that the winner took home US$1,000,000.00 - man I love that number.

Interviewed on TV one night he was asked how he had been treated by the South African crowd. In his broken English Seve (with face lit up) replied that he couldn't believe the crowd.

"My throat was so dry" he said "that walking off the tee I spit and by accident spit hit a spectator on his shoe. So I say 'very sorry sir' and he reply 'great honor - thank you.' I couldn't believe it - that not happen to me before!"

Such was the man admired in South Africa.

One night I had dinner at a friend's house (Penny Philip - née Angear - was the friend's name and she may remember if she ever reads this). One of the other guests at the dinner was involved with the Million Dollar golf tournament. Her job was partly to ensure the players golfing and general needs were seen to. She spent many hours with Seve and I distinctly remember her talking about him and me thinking how lucky she was to have met the great man.

In that same tournament Seve once found himself snookered on the green.! Sun City's famous clover leaf greens had found yet another victim. To putt the ball he would have to putt off the green and through the rough and then back on to the green.

No problem to Seve as he proceeded to play an exquisite chip shot that landed within an inch of the hole. But oh my! What a divot he took out of that green!

And finally I will never forget sitting with my fiancé watching Seve putt about a 40 footer on the 16th green at Sun City. The putt must have had at least 20 foot of break in it (left to right and up a steep bit of green) and he all but sunk the thing. One of the best putts I have ever seen.

My fiancé (bless her) turned to me and said:

"Lawrence do you also putt round like that or do you just putt straight for the hole?" A dinner tale that has been told many times.

And of course there was the time that Seve missed his flight on the ill-fated plane that crashed on landing in Madrid. I think everyone on board lost their lives that day. We would have lost a great man and a great ambassador for golf many years ago but his job was not yet done.

He is no longer in pain or discomfort and for that we are thankful

I will always remember the dashing cavalier, the handsome Spanish matador, the lady's man, a real gentleman and a one of the greatest golfers ever.

Thank you Seve for the wonderful memories.

Take a break my friend. You will be missed but not forgotten - that would be impossible.

Street Talk

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