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  • Alistair Tait

European Tour pros should say thanks Seve

Every European Tour golfer should say a quiet thank you to Seve Ballesteros today. Europe’s greatest player left this world on this day, 7 May 2011.

Hard to believe it’s been nine years since the greatest golfer Europe has ever seen went to that great clubhouse in the sky.

What Seve did for the European Tour should never be forgotten. Especially what he did for the Ryder Cup.

European Tour pros wouldn’t be enjoying the vast riches they currently hold in their bank accounts if not for Ballesteros. Think of what Arnold Palmer did for the game in the United States and you have an excellent parallel for what Seve gave the European game.

Seve not only thrilled fans with his swashbuckling style, he did it with charm, sex appeal and charisma. Those big sponsors willing to plough millions into European Tour events – and millions more in appearance fees for select stars – might not be doing so today if not for Seve.

Former European Tour chief executive Ken Schofield had a far easier task knocking on the doors of potential sponsors when he had Seve in his back pocket. Hard also to believe now that Schofield and Seve fell out over appearances fees when it's now so commonplace no one bats an eye. Imagine what Seve would have made nowadays in appearance money.

Forget the big five of Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo and Ballesteros, as far as I’m concerned there was only the big one: Severiano Ballesteros.

Thankfully Seve’s contribution to the Ryder Cup hasn’t been forgotten. Every two years, the European team calls on Seve’s memory to galvanise the squad against the might of the United States. Hopefully that will continue. Until Seve, successive U.S. captains could have drawn names out of a hat for pairings and singles’ line ups and still walked off with the trophy.

The foundation for Europe’s current dominance in the biennial event goes back to Seve infusing Europe with much needed self-belief in 1983.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Seve’s short life – he was just 54 when he died as a result of a brain tumour – is the way his career just fizzled out. There was no grand farewell for Seve. No pictures of him on the Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course at St Andrews after his last competitive round in the Open Championship.

No going out with a bang for one of the greatest players to practice the royal & ancient art, just a whimper of an exit. The three-time Open winner announced his retirement on the Monday of the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. He’d missed the cut in his last Open a year earlier.

Seve’s last competitive round came in his Champions Tour debut. It was his one and only foray into senior golf. Seve finished dead last among players he once had for lunch.

He shot 86 and 80 earlier in the year at Augusta, his game a million miles away from handling the layout on which he’d won two green jackets.

There were few dry eyes – mine among them – when Seve announced his retirement to a packed press room.

“This is not a real goodbye,” Seve said, also with tears in his eyes. “This is a see you later, because I will continue to be involved in the game that gave me so much over the years.”

Just four later he was gone.

There will never be another Seve Ballesteros. Hard to imagine anyone with so much charisma will ever grace European fairways again.

The game is poorer without him.

So, every European Tour player today should say a quiet thanks. Without Seve they wouldn’t be enjoying the riches currently coming their way.

R.I.P Seve.

My book, Seve: A Biography of Severiano Ballesteros, can be purchased on Amazon.

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