I came home from work today and collected my mail. A couple of magazines - one of them my Golf World. It had that classic, almost iconic picture of Seve Ballesteros - the one in black, fist raised, fiercely triumphant at St Andrews in 1984 winning The Open. But it was accompanied by those significant paired numbers.
He was younger than me, I thought. And then it actually hit me. I'd missed it, somehow, the actual day he died. I knew he was sick, so badly ill - brain cancer - that he hadn't even been able to come to the Ryder Cup last fall, having to send a video of his encouraging words. But I missed that he'd actually died. (Teach me to skip the sports sections on busy days...)
Seve was one of my favorite players of all times - right up there in the top three, maybe top two. He was a dramatic player, a scrambler who never met a lie so bad he couldn't get out of it. He didn't have the cleanest swing, and he missed a helluva lot of fairways, but he could get up and down like nobody else - in 1979 at Royal Lytham in The Open, he hit a three-wood off the tee into a temporary parking lot, then made an incredible recovery shot onto the green and holed out. He won.
He could take your breath away, drop your heart to your feet or put it in your throat, and pull you to your feet in shouting joy. Watching Seve play was like nothing else, ever.
Seve appeared like a thunderbolt at Royal Birkdale in the 1976 Open Championship, coming in second at age 19 - and followed up by winning the Dutch Open three weeks later. Over a career cut short by back injury he won 87 events around the world, including five majors (three Opens and two Masters - he was the first European to win at Augusta, in fact), plus five World Matchplays and a PGA.
And he was the beating heart and fiery soul of the European Ryder Cup team. He and Jose Maria Olazabal still hold the record for foursomes / four-ball wins - for either team. He led Europe to dramatic victories on both continents, and who can forget his captaincy at Valderrama? He was everywhere - every hole, it seemed the camera caught Seve in that cart, guiding, urging, lifting his team to victory.
Here's an appreciation by Ken Schofield. And here's a good obit.