Severiano Ballesteros Sota, known around the world simply as “Seve,” is considered one of the greatest European golfers of all time and among the greatest golfers ever. Fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia stands a chance to join Ballesteros and José María Olazábal as the only three Spanish golfers to win the Masters.
Ballesteros was a beloved figure in Spain and the sports community at the time of his death on May 7, 2011 at age 54 after a battle with brain cancer. During his lifetime, he won the Masters in 1980 and 1984 and the Open Championship in 1979, 1984 and 1988. He helped the European team win five Ryder Cups and he won the World Match Play Championship five times.
Since Ballesteros’ birthday is April 9, the last day of the 2017 Masters, Gacia has said that he wants to win a green jacket to honor the golfing legend. Ballesteros would be 60 years old were he alive today.
Here’s what you need to know about Ballesteros.
1. Garcia Said it Would Be a ‘Great Honor’ to Win the Masters on Seve’s Birthday
Garcia, who was a member of the 2012 Ryder Cup team that wore a patch in honor of Ballesteros, told the Mirror that it would be an honor to win The Masters on his idol’s birthday.
“Everyone knows how much Seve means to everyone in Spanish golf,” Garcia told the Mirror. “We all know it would have been his birthday on Sunday. I was a big fan of his – I still am. He had an aura. His passing still makes me sad. I miss him very much.”
“[Ballesteros] brought so much not only to the game, but to Spain. Basically, he’s a hero,” Garcia continued. “It would mean a lot to win on his 60th birthday. It’s difficult to describe it until it happens.”
If Garcia won the Masters, he’d be the first Spaniard to win since José María Olazábal won his second in 1999. Olazábal also won in 1994.
When Ballesteros won for the first time in 1980, he was the first European to win and just the second golfer from outside the U.S. to win. Ballesteros won his second Masters in 1983.
2. Ballesteros Turned Pro in 1974, When he Was Only 16 Years Old
Ballesteros was only 16 years old when he became a professional golfer in 1974. Just two years later, he finished in second place at the 1976 Open Championship, tying with Jack Nicklaus for second. He finished six shots behind winner Johnny Miller.
Ballesteros believed that he made a mistake by going pro at such a young age. “The biggest mistake I made was to start playing professional golf when I was still only 16. I lost all my growing-up years. I haven’t lived a normal life,” he said, notes the Telegraph.
The defining moment of Ballesteros’ early career was winning the 1979 Open Championship. He was the youngest winner of the 20th Century. As The World Golf Hall of Fame notes, he was the first European to win that tournament since Arnaud Massy of France won in 1907. His win not only confirmed his own place in the golf world, but also helped pave the way for a new generation of European golf stars.
When he won the Masters a year later, he was only 23, making him the youngest winner until Tiger Woods won at 21 in 1997.
During the late 1980s and into the 1990s, Ballesteros often took part in the Ryder Cup, helping the European team win five titles. He won his final Major at the 1988 Open Championship.
“I knew at the time I won the Open in 1988 that I had reached some sort of peak, that it was a round of golf that I would think fondly about for the rest of my life,” Ballesteros said.
3. He Was Married to Carmen Botín O’Shea & Had 3 Children
Ballesteros was married to Carmen Botín O’Shea from 1988 until 2004, when they divorced. A 2004 Telegraph report notes that the marriage’s troubles started in the late 1990s, when Ballesteros refused to accept that his career was coming to an end. He finally retired three years after the divorce and a year before he said he was diagnosed with brain cancer.
His son, the 26-year-old Javier Ballesteros, made his professional debut in April 2012 in Barcelona, at the same course his father made his pro debut, The42.ie reported at the time. However, Javier was older when he made his debut at 21.
“I have no extra pressure being Seve’s son, I don’t really have anything to prove. I’m just going to be myself,” Javier said in 2012.
Ballesteros and Carmen were also the parents of Miguel Ballesteros and Carmen.
“Papa, as you can see, Javier, Carmen and me are strong. Just like you asked us,” Miguel said at his father’s funeral, reports the Telegraph. “For us it’s not a day to say goodbye, we know you are by our side and we will always be by yours. We love you, dad.”
4. Ballesteros Died After a Battle With Brain Cancer
Ballesteros died after a long battle with brain cancer that began in October 2008, when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. After his family learned of the diagnosis, he released a statement about facing the biggest challenge of his life.
“Throughout my entire career I have been one of the best at overcoming obstacles on the golf course. And now I want to be the best, facing the most difficult game of my life, using all my strength and also counting on those who have been sending me get-well messages,” Ballesteros said in a statement. “Now I’ve been able to tell my three children personally and their mother, now I can tell you the illness that I am suffering from. After the exhaustive tests that I have undertaken in the Hospital La Paz (Madrid) they have detected a brain tumour.”
In June 2009, Ballesteros made his first public appearance since he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During that press conference, he also announced the creation of the Seve Ballesteros Foundation, which continues to help young people and to preserve Ballesteros’ legacy.
“Being here is like a dream,” Ballesteros said in June 2009. “When I think about what the doctors told me they had to do with my brain, it is a miracle. It was tough.”
Unfortunately, in 2011, Ballesteros’ health took a turn for the worse. In May of that year, his family announced that he suffered a “severe deterioration.” Just a day later, May 7, 2011, his family announced his death.
“I held his hands, caressed them and thought, ‘What these hands have done in the world.’ He knew he was dying, and he did it with full presence of mind. What is leaving us is more than a brother, a son or a father; what is leaving us is glory,” Balleesteros’ bother, Badomero, told Spanish news agency Efe.
“Today, golf lost a great champion and a great friend. We also lost a great entertainer and ambassador for our sport,” Jack Nicklaus said in 2011. “No matter the golf that particular day, you always knew you were going to be entertained. Seve’s enthusiasm was just unmatched by anybody I think that ever played the game.”
5. The Airport in Cantabria Is Named After Ballesteros
Seve’s remains a popular figure in Spain. In fact, the Santander Airport, the only airport in Ballesteros’ native Cantabria, was renamed in his honor. The Spanish government approved the name chance in April 2015, almost a year after politicians in the region approved a petition to change it.
“It all began in 2011 when Seve passed away and his native region of Cantabria wanted to rename the airport as a tribute to what Seve had meant,” Rosario Sordo of the Ballesteros Foundation told Golf Monthly. “Later on, it was awakened by the people’s initiative, and the government of the region soon adopted a resolution, and approached Seve’s children to tell them the action taken to officially start the necessary proceedings to carry out the airport change of name.”
“I’ve had a very good life. I’m sure that some people will feel sorry for me or maybe cry when they see this program,” Ballesteros told the BBC in a 2009 interview. “But I feel very happy and a very lucky person because throughout my life I have had so many great moments and I feel that I live two or three more lives than the average person. This thing that happened to me is a very little thing compared to other people who have tougher times. They didn’t have the opportunity to live life so intensely and as well as I did.”