Seve, The Ultimate Ryder Cup Warrior
It’s hard to believe, but the Ryder Cup really wasn’t that big of a deal before Spain’s Severiano “Seve” Ballesteros showed up in the early 1980s.
Until the swashbuckling Spaniard started playing, the U.S. was dominating and there was no rivalry. Ballesteros, who died in 2011 from brain cancer, was a fiery competitor who had an unwavering belief that the Stars and Stripes could be beaten. His singular goal back in the those days was to figure out a way, any way, that Europe could end the domination.
While Ballesteros is fondly remembered as the flashy, go-for-broke player who won five majors, he also evokes memories of an enigmatic, bombastic, polarizing Ryder Cup player and coach who was instrumental in creating the rivalry between the teams that has made the event so dramatic and exciting. A match play savant, Ballesteros won 20 Ryder Cup matches, only three behind all-time leader Nick Faldo.
Oozing with charisma, the inspirational and hard-driving Ballesteros almost singlehandedly convinced the Europeans that they could compete shot-for-shot with the Americans in the Ryder Cup.
Here are some of Ballesteros’ most amazing Ryder Cup moments:
At PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in 1983
Ballesteros has always been heralded as the ultimate shot maker and escape artist. In a career filled with miraculous shots, Seve hit one of his most amazing at PGA National. He hit a three-wood to 18 feet to the pin from a fairway bunker 250 yards away. Fuzzy Zoeller, his USA competitor that day, calls it the most unbelievable shot he’s ever seen.
At Muirfield Village, Ohio in 1987
This was the European team’s first win on American soil and Seve was the inspirational leader. With the victory over the Jack Nicklaus captained USA team, Ballesteros and his fellow teammates were now convinced they could compete evenly with the Americans and it started to elevate the popularity of the Ryder cup.
At Kiawah Island, South Carolina in 1991
Called “The War on The Shore”, this is the Ryder Cup that took the event to an another level in world-wide interest. Trash talking and feuding abounded during the heated matches and Ballesteros was always right in the middle of all the chaos. Kiawah Island is where the current day rivalry was born and you can give Ballesteros lots of credit for getting under the American’s skin and making the event “must see TV.”
At Valderrama, Spain in 1997
Played in Ballesteros’ home country of Spain, this is where he captained his team to a one point victory over the Americans. Ballesteros, with his mix of emotional outbursts and overt cheerleading, was irritating to the American players and the drama he created helped escalate the Ryder Cup to an even higher level of intensity.
At Celtic Manor, Wales, England 2010
Frail and week from his cancer treatments, Ballesteros made a powerful, emotional phone call to the European team. Later, several of the players said the call helped inspire them to victory. It was the first time the Ryder Cup matches in Europe were covered live in the United States.
When you attend the matches or you sit down in front of your television and watch the tension-filled shots, patriotic fervor and intense, excitable crowds, you should give a big thank-you to Seve because he was the leading force in making the Ryder Cup one of the world’s greatest sports events.