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Seve Ballesteros Brought Flair and Passion to the Golf World

Posted on May 07, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Seve Ballestros brought flair and passion to the game of golf.

The golf world lost a superstar with the death on Saturday of five-time Major Champion Seve Ballesteros after a long battle with Cancer. Known for his style and passion on the course, the Spaniard was not only one of the best players of his era, but he helped foster the international flavor of golf and turn the Ryder Cup into a major event.

Only 16 when he turned pro in 1974, Ballesteros emerged on the radar just two years later when he led the 1976 British Open by two strokes after three rounds. Though he faded with a 74 in the final round, he still finished tied with Jack Nicklaus for second behind Johnny Miller.

He went on to lead the European Tour money list that year, something he would do six times, and by 1979 was recognized as one of the up-and-coming stars in the golf world.

During the 1979 season he claimed his first major championship by winning the British Open by three stokes over Ben Crenshaw and Nicklaus. Only 22 years old, Ballesteros was the youngest winner of the British Open in the 20th Century and the first player from continental Europe to win a major title since 1907.

The following year, Ballesteros won his first green jacket with a four stroke victory at the Masters. He led by as many as 10 strokes during the final round before ultimately winning by four strokes. He was the youngest Masters Champion until Tiger Woods broke his mark 17 years later.

Ballesteros went on to win a second Masters in 1983 and claimed the British Open in 1984 and 1988. His best finish at the U.S. Open was third in 1987 and his best finish at the PGA Championship was fifth in 1984.

His final major championship was the 1988 British Open when he shot a final round 65 to hold off Nick Price and Nick Faldo.

Ballesteros, shown in the rough at the 1976 British Open at Royal Birkdale, was known for making amazing shots in difficult situations.

His emergence as a golf superstar was the reason that the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include players from continental Europe and he became synonymous with the bi-annual event.

Though the Europeans lost in 1983, Ballesteros made an impressive late charge to half a match against Fuzzy Zoeller that many credit with changing the course of future Ryder Cups.

Europe went on to win the crown in 1985, retain the title in 1987 and 1989 and then after losing consecutive matches to the United States regained the crown in 1995.

The pinnacle of his Ryder Cup career was in 1997 when Ballesteros captained the winning European squad in the first Ryder Cup ever played on continental Europe at the Valderrama Golf Club in Sotogrande, Spain.

Persistent back issues kept Ballesteros from maintaining the greatness he displayed in his 20s. His last victory came in the 1995 Peugeot Spanish Open and the last time he made the cut at a major championship was in 1996 at the Masters

After turning 50 in 2007, Ballesteros tried to participate on the Champions Tour, but his back never allowed him to compete at a high level.

Truly an international player, Ballesteros won a total of 91 professional tournaments, including 50 on the European Tour, nine on the PGA Tour and 6 on the Japan Tour.

Despite his inability to attend, Ballesteros was remembered by his colleagues during the 2011 Masters and there is no question that he will be missed by the entire golfing community.

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