Moving away slightly from his individual accolades, this part of my Seve Bio looks at the powerful people in European golf that Ballesteros didn’t seem to get on well with and also his look back at the greatest competition the sport has to offer…
Part 5: ‘Scapegoat and The Magic of The Ryder Cup’
“If being a rebel means not accepting the authoritarian decisions, then I certainly am one.”
Seve during his golfing career wasn’t always calm. He very much disliked the hierarchy of the European Tour. Especially a man called Ken Schofield. Schofield was the chief executive of the Tour between 1975-2004. Seve felt Schofield singled him out. “I must have felt like a stone in Ken Schofield’s shoe. I swear he did everything he could to stop me from playing.” Schofield is an interesting character. He did do a lot for European golf. However there were many areas that needed approving. Seve knew this, and when he would ask for Schofield to look into these, he felt ignored.
Another figure Ballesteros had a damaging relationship with was the judge John Paramor. Whenever he could, it seemed Paramor would not allow Seve to play his game. He never was allowed to drop the ball if it was a pretty much impossible shot if Paramor was in charge of proceedings. He would often be given penalty strokes for slow play. One incident even saw Ballesteros lose his cool and get disqualified because Paramor insisted Seve had wrongly added his scorecard.
“The Ryder Cup is one of the world’s greatest sporting events.”
In 1979, Seve Ballesteros made his first appearance in the famous tournament. He lost his four-ball and single matches but won a point for Europe in the foursomes. They were crushed by the United States. Seve’s love for the tournament started here though, as he learnt a lot. He loved match play, which is what forms the Ryder Cup. He loved the ever-growing atmosphere by the spectators. He grew to love it so much that by the time the next one came around, he was left torn apart.
Schofield and co. excluded Ballesteros from the 1981 team for not playing enough that year. The effect of this is that Europe lost even heavier than they did in 1979. Seve was so hurt by the exclusion that he vowed to “Never take part in any Ryder Cups ever again.”
1983, and a man called Tony Jacklin is named Europe captain. He wants Seve in his side, but at first the Spaniard declines. After some advice from his brother, Ballesteros turned back on his word and returned to the Ryder Cup with huge optimism. Europe battled hard in Florida, but lost by half a point.
Then the tide turned in 1985. Europe, which had a stronger team that played in Florida and were made favourites to win. The two teams were tied on 6-6 going into the Saturday afternoon sessions. Europe won 3 of their 4 games to make it 9-7 heading into the singles on the Sunday. Seve drew his match. Earning half a point for Europe in the process. But Europe managed to hang on and for the first time since 1957, they had won the Ryder Cup.
“It was at that instant, when I saw the euphoria of the spectators and my colleague’s display of emotion, that I understood the real meaning of the Ryder Cup.”
1987 was to prove even better. Playing away on American soil, the European team was made up of golfers on top of their games. Seve thinks that the team of ’87 was the best one ever. It was here that his partnership with Jose María Olazábal worked it’s magic. With both Spaniards playing similar games, they were near enough impossible to beat. Europe went on to win 15-13. Seve won the decisive point in the singles, defeating Curtis Strange in a slightly heated contest. “Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo and I were hugging on the edge of the green, crying. We were so excited!” The team of 1987 had made history.
The Americans seemed to be knocked astray after losing on home territory for the first time in 87’. But in 1989, when Europe looked odds on to win yet again, the Yankees thought back to draw the competition 14-14. Europe still retained the cup, but this was a warning for what would occur in 1991. ‘The War on the Shore’ in South Carolina. The Americans, who took to warlike tactics came back to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 1983. According to Seve, they won the cup “by making Golf pay a high price as a sport.”
When it came to individual titles, the period of 1991-1994 proved a tough one. During which Ballesteros would go on a sour 26-month streak before winning a title. In 1993 he was winless, and fell in 42nd in the European rankings, he lowest rank since turning pro nearly twenty years previous. His win in the Benson and Hedges Invitational in 94’ kicked started his ascend towards the top once again, still proving to the world that the old Seve was still there.