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  • Alistair Tait

Living Up To A Legend

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

You have to feel a wee bit for Javier Ballesteros playing in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. No doubt the young man is proud to walk in his father’s footsteps around the hallowed links of St Andrews, site of Seve’s most iconic moment in golf.

Javier is playing on a sponsor’s invite this week, one 26 players benefitting from Alfred Dunhill’s largesse. (Twenty six!)

Imagine having to live up to a name like Ballesteros?.

“This is my first time in St Andrews,” the 31 year old told The Scotsman golf writer Martin Dempster.
“There is probably not a more special place in the world for me than here. For me and obviously for my dad, The Open is the greatest tournament in the world.
“The UK public are amazing when it comes to golf and he always said it was the best moment of his career. It must have been so special for him. Winning The Open at St Andrews on the last putt was perfect.”

Javier is in St Andrews partly to play in the tournament and also to attend the premiere of the R&A-commissioned movie "Artist, Fighter, Legend, Seve" which was screened for the first time on the evening before the opening round. (Initial reviews are good.)

As I write, young Ballesteros is lying in equal 132nd place on 2-over par after a 74 at St Andrews. Odds are he is unlikely to make it through to the final round. His consolation might be making a birdie on the Old Course’s home hole yesterday, just as his father did when he won the 1984 Open Championship.

Sons following famous fathers doesn’t always work out. You practically have to go back to Young Tom Morris to find a son who bettered his dad’s record.

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest player ever to play the game but sons Gary and Jack Jr never even came close to reaching their dad’s prowess.

Gary Player’s accomplishments in this game are well recorded. Wayne Player’s accomplishments? A Google search will tell you Wayne Player has made more headlines for what he did without a club in his hands. Albeit he gained notoriety for holding a sleeve of golf balls in his hand, and an alleged ban from The Masters.

Kevin Stadler won the 2006 Johnnie Walker Classic and the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open. Puny in comparison to dad’s three European Tour wins and 13 PGA Tour victories, including the 1982 Masters

The young Walrus is currently 1836th on the Official World Golf Ranking. Now 41, Kevin’s hopes of matching dad’s tally of wins is fading fast.

Another Kevin, as in Tway, is the world’s 478th best player. Dad Bob won eight times on the PGA Tour, including the 1986 PGA Championship. Former U.S. Junior champion (2005) Kevin won the 2019 Safeway Open, his only PGA Tour win to date. That would have helped his bragging rights in the Tway family. At 33 he can still give dad a decent run for his money.

Like Stadler, Javier Ballesteros is ranked 1836th on the Official World Golf Ranking. He plays most of his golf on the mini circuit Alps Tour with occasional appearances on the European Challenge Tour. This week is just his seventh appearance on the main European Tour since 2014, a far cry from Seve's record of 474 tournaments and 50 wins, the most by any European Tour player.

I’m not trying to diss Javier Ballesteros, nor Kevins Stadler or Tway. I’m just trying to imagine what it must be like to try to excel in a sport in the shadow of famous fathers. Most of us can’t imagine how hard it is to try to step into the shoes of a legend like Seve Ballesteros.

P.S. I hope Javier shoots lights out these next two days, plays the Old Course on Sunday and is cheered to the heavens by the best fans in golf as he walks down the 18th hole.

#JustSaying: “Not the greatest golfer of all time but, in my view, the best.” R&A Chief Executive Martin Slumbers on Seve Ballesteros

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