Two-time Masters champion Ballesteros dead at 54

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Seve Ballesteros, the fiery and charismatic Spaniard who won his two Masters Tournament titles by the age of 26, died early Saturday morning from respiratory failure, ending a brilliant life cut short before its time.

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Seve Ballesteros hugs his caddie on the 18th green after winning the 1983 Masters.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Seve Ballesteros hugs his caddie on the 18th green after winning the 1983 Masters.

The hall-of-fame golfer, who turned 54 on April 9 (on the third round of the 2011 Masters) is the youngest Masters champion to die.

Horton Smith, the winner of the inaugural Masters in 1934, had been the youngest. He was 55 when he died in 1963.

Ballesteros, who died in his native Pedrena, Spain from of respiratory complications from the brain tumor diagnosed in late 2008,

He won the Masters in 1980 and 1983 and was annually a threat until the early 1990s.

"With the passing of Seve Ballesteros, the Masters Tournament loses one of its great champions," Augusta National Golf Club and Masters Tournament chairman Billy Payne said in a statement.

"Best known for his fearless and heroic play, Seve annually showcased his brilliance at Augusta National, much to the enjoyment of the millions of fans he inspired around the world," Payne said. "He leaves an indelible mark on the history of our Tournament and will be dearly missed."

Ballesteros loved the Masters, saying he dreamed of winning the tournament when he would hit rocks with the only club he had, a 3-iron, on the beach as a youngster.

During his early years at Augusta National, Ballesteros would visit the pro shop and buy a visor with the Masters logo and wear it during the tournament.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Ballesteros' impact on golf "will be felt long into the future, and we join his family and many friends in mourning his passing."

Ballesteros' tumor was discovered in October 2008 after he passed out in an airport. Four surgeries were needed on the tumor and he underwent chemotherapy. At the time, Ballesteros called it "the hardest challenge of my life."

After he survived the surgeries - one of which lasted nearly seven hours - Ballesteros said he had been given "a mulligan" in life and made a few public appearances the following year.

Ballesteros won five major championships, a record 50 European Tour events, four PGA Tour events and helped turned golf into a global game through his major championship victories and his sterling play in the Ryder Cup.

"This is such a very sad day for all who love golf," European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said on the tour's Web site. "We have all been so blessed to live in his era.

"Seve's unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support, and play golf, and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion and fierce determination," O'Grady said.

On his twitter account, World No. 1 Lee Westwood, of England,  wrote: "It's a sad day. Lost an inspiration, genius, role model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve."

Even casual fans took notice of Ballesteros in his prime because of his vibrant personality and passion for the game.

"He had such charisma about him; I don't think you can manufacture that," said 1987 Masters Tournament champion Larry Mize, who beat Ballesteros and Greg Norman in a sudden-death playoff for his green jacket.

"You either have it or you don't," Mize said of charisma. "He was what they like to call swashbuckling. Just the way he walked down the fairway. He was an exciting player to watch. You were drawn to him."

That was never more true than in the final round of the 1983 Masters. In a Monday finish, Ballesteros started the round one shot behind Raymond Floyd and Craig Stadler.

Ballesteros was 4-under through four holes (birdie, eagles, par, birdie) . He shot 69 and won by four shots.

"I call him the Cirque du Soleil of golf," three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo, of England, said on CBS' broadcast of the Wells Fargo Championship. on Saturday. "For me, he was the greatest show. He had everything. We will never have another Seve.

"Arnold Palmer was Arnold, yes, he was special," Faldo said. "He had charisma. Seve had charisma, flair, good looks, the walk, the face, the eyes. You had so much."

There were recent signs that Ballesteros health was declining. He had hoped to play an exhibition of former British Open champions at the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews, but doctors ruled it out.

At the Champions Dinner on the Tuesday night of the 2011 Masters, defending champion Phil Mickelson's menu included a Spanish dish in Ballesteros' honor.

And after the champions had eaten, two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal gave a sad update on his fellow Spaniard and friend.

"Jose filled us in," Mize said. "He said it wasn't really out yet, but basically it wasn't good and they didn't think he (Ballesteros) would make it through the year. He had some kind words from Seve about some of the bigger names."

"Ollie made a wonderful speech and he went around the table conveying Seve's wishes to everybody, his memory of everybody and how he remembered you as a character and that sort of thing," Faldo said on CBS. "We kind of sensed it,"

"He hated to tell us," Mize said of Olazabal. "He was able to get through it, but he was giving it with a heavy heart."

And on Friday, Ballesteros' family issued a statement saying there had been a "severe deterioration" in his health.

Olazabal and fellow Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez were crying as they finished their rounds Friday in the Spanish Open after hearing the news of Ballesteros' condition.

Ballesteros' passing was mourned all other the world, and at pro golf tournaments. At the Spanish Open,  the pin flags were lowered to half-staff and a moment of silence was held. On one scoreboard was the note "Seve forever."

In Saturday's third round of the Spanish Open, Olazabal shot 75 and called it " the most difficult round of my life. It was very tough to make it to the first tee and hit the first drive."

Playing partner Colin Montgomerie said Olazabal was "in floods of tears most of the day. He has lost an older brother almost."

Most of the players in the Spanish Open, as well as those at the PGA Tour's Wells Fargo Championship, the Champion's Tour's Regions Tradition and the Nationwide Tour's Stadion Classic in Athens, Ga., wore black ribbons in his honor.

Ballesteros wowed the golf world with a style that was right out of Arnold Palmer's go-for-broke book. Ballesteros was a wayward driver who hit miraculous recovery shots, which was perfectly suited for British Open venues and Augusta National Golf Club, which had wide-open fairways during his prime.

"He had everything he needed (at Augusta National)," said Mize.

"He was a little wild, but he could get away with it," Mize said. "Augusta requires great iron play and he was a great iron player. The creativity and imagination is key at Augusta, especially when you get around the green. His short game is legendary. It was right up his alley - that's why he's a multiple winner."

In the 1987 Masters, Ballesteros bowed out of the sudden-death playoff with Mize and Norman with a three-putt bogey on the first hole, No. 10 on the course. Mize then won it on the next hole with his famous 140-foot chip-in birdie.

"The biggest thing I remember is he came over and shook my hand and wished me good luck," Mize said. "That was very nice of him. I appreciated that. We always got along well."

The 1987 Masters wasn't the only time Mize got the better of Ballesteros.

In Mize's lone Ryder Cup appearance, in 1987 at  Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, Mize and Hal

Sutton beat Ballesteros and Olazabal 2 and 1 in a team match. It was Ballesteros' only loss in five matches as he led Europe to its first Ryder Cup victory on U.S. soil.

Ballesteros and Olazabal's career record as a Ryder Cup team was 11-2-2.

"We were the first to beat them; it was fun," Mize said. "That was a blast. You don't forget about beating those two guys. They were a powerhouse."

When he won the 1980 Masters, Ballesteros was the youngest winner (age 23) and the second international player to win the Masters and the first European. His victory opened the floodgates at Augusta National - Europeans won nine of the next 16 green jackets.

Ballesteros played in 18 Masters. He was a contender through 1990, when he tied for seventh place.

Back problems led to poor play and he never made a cut after the 1996 event. He was unable to play from 2004-2006, but came back for a final appearance in 2007, shooting 86-80-166.

Later that summer, at the British Open, he announced his retired from golf at age 51.

1983

Seve Ballesteros had to wait three years and an extra day to earn his second green coat. With Friday's round washed out by heavy rain, the tournament finished on Monday, but Ballesteros didn't seem to mind.

Near the leaders all week, the Spaniard started the final round one shot behind former champions Ray Floyd and Craig Stadler. But with a burst of scoring in the first four holes - birdie, eagle, par, birdie - Ballesteros turned the day into a Sunday-like stroll.

"It was like he was driving a Ferrari and everybody else was in Chevrolets,'' said Tom Kite, who shared runner-up honors with Ben Crenshaw.

Ballesteros maintained a comfortable lead until Amen Corner, where he made bogey on the 12th hole. After he snap-hooked his drive into the woods on No. 13, he was able to salvage par by pitching out and reaching the green in regulation.

"I told my caddie after I parred 13, that 'From here to the last hole we have to play the last holes in par,' and we did,'' Ballesteros said.
That included a chip-in for par on the final hole, although the tournament had been decided by that point.

"I got my birdies early,'' said Ballesteros, who also has won three British Opens in his career. ``On this course, you have to wait for birdies. . . . When you play aggressive here, this golf course will kill you.''

Although further success was predicted for Ballesteros at Augusta National, he never won another Masters. He led the 1986 tournament before suffering a late collapse, and he was eliminated on the first hole of sudden death in 1987.

- John Boyette, Sports Editor

WINS

PGA TOUR Victories (9)
1978 Greater Greensboro Open. 1979 British Open Championship. 1980 Masters Tournament. 1983 Masters Tournament, Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic. 1984 British Open Championship. 1985 USF&G Classic. 1988 Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic, British Open Championship.

Other Victories (79)
1974 Campeonato Nacional Para Sub-25, Vizcaya Open. 1975 Campeonato Nacional Para Sub-25. 1976 Dutch Open, Trophee Lancome, Memorial Donald Swaelens, Campeonato de Cataluna, Campeonato de Tenerife. 1977 French Open, Uniroyal International, Swiss Open, Braun International Golf, Japanese Open, Dunlop Phoenix, Otago Classic. 1978 Martini International, German Open, Scandanavian Enterprise Open, Swiss Open, Kenya Open, Campeonato de Espana Sub-25, Japanese Open. 1979 English Golf Classic, Open el Prat.
1980 Madrid Open, Martini International, Dutch Open. 1981 Scandanavian Enterprise Open, Benson and Hedges Spanish Open, Australian PGA Championship, Suntory World Match Play Championship, Dunlop Phoenix. 1982 Cepsa Madrid Open, Paco Rabanne French Open, Masters de San Remo, Suntory World Match Play Championship. 1983 Sun Alliance PGA Championship, Carrolls Irish Open, Trophee Lancome, Million Dollar Challenge. 1984 Suntory World Match Play Championship, Million Dollar Challenge. 1985 Carrolls Irish Open, Peugeot French Open, Sanyo Open, Benson and Hedges Spanish Open, Campeonato de Espana-Codomiu, Suntory World Match Play Championship. 1986 Dunhill British Masters, Carrolls Irish Open, Johnnie Walker Monte Carlo Open, Peugeot French Open, KLM Dutch Open, Trophee Lancome. 1987 Suze Open, APG Larios, Campeonato de Espana Para Profesionales. 1988 Mallorca Open de Baleares, Scandanavian Enterprise Open, German Open, Trophee Lancome, APG Larios, VISA Taiheiyo Masters. 1989 Cepsa Madrid Open, Epson Grand Prix, Ebel European Masters-Swiss Open.
1990 Open Renault de Baleares. 1991 Volvo PGA Championship, Dunhill British Masters, Toyota World Match Play Championship, Chunichi Crowns Open. 1992 Dubai Desert Classic, Turespana Open de Baleares, Copa Quinto Lentenario per Equipos. 1994 Benson and Hedges International Open, Mercedes German Masters. 1995 Peugeot Open de Espana, Tournoi Perrier de Paris [with Jose Maria Olazabal].

Statement from family

Today, at 2:10 a.m. Spanish time, Seve Ballesteros passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at his home in Pedreña.

The Ballesteros family is very grateful for all the support and gestures of love that have been received since Seve was diagnosed with a brain tumour on 5th October 2008 at Madrid Hospital la Paz.

At this time the family asks for respect and privacy at such a painful time.

Thank you very much.

Source: www.seveballesteros.com

Comments (9) Add comment
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Gaangel
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Gaangel 05/06/11 - 05:52 pm
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my prayers go out to his

my prayers go out to his family

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 05/06/11 - 07:05 pm
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How very sad.

How very sad.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 05/07/11 - 04:02 am
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Sad day for the world of

Sad day for the world of golf, another legend has left us.

He was always one of my Masters favorites.

Rest in Peace.

Brad

smartie
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smartie 05/07/11 - 06:14 am
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god bless seve, and his

god bless seve, and his family. i remember being a 14 year old kid in 1980, pulling for this young man to win the masters. most of the older folk laughed at that notion. he certainly proved his metal. 5 major championships!! i would've loved him if he hadn't won any. his competitive spirit made him someone to admire. god bless you, seve. thanks for the memories.

charliemanson
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charliemanson 05/07/11 - 06:45 am
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Winning his first Masters at

Winning his first Masters at such a young age and with such a commanding lead, I used to think he would be the person to break Jack Nicholas' record of 6 Green Jackets. God Bless. Rest in peace.

wondersnevercease
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wondersnevercease 05/07/11 - 07:44 am
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I also loved to watch him
Unpublished

I also loved to watch him play....prayers for the family.

Boogaloo
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Boogaloo 05/07/11 - 11:21 am
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Tremendous skills as a golfer

Tremendous skills as a golfer and a man with much confidence and pride as well. I will never forget during the 1986 Masters when his ball found the water on the 15th hole while Nicklaus was creating his masterpiece round. The gallery cheered which was very un-Masters like. Rest in peace, Seve.

sucram
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sucram 05/07/11 - 01:36 pm
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Great golfer and class act.

Great golfer and class act. He will be missed. R.I.P.

Eloraherrington
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Eloraherrington 05/07/11 - 05:39 pm
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Seve will be missed! My

Seve will be missed! My husband (Marion Herrington) was his caddie in the 1980 tournament at the Masters. Seve use to say "Im gonna put it out of reach"!. He was a genius! We were so sorry to hear when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our condolences truly goes out to Ballesteros family.

shamrock
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shamrock 05/08/11 - 02:54 am
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So sorry to hear about the

So sorry to hear about the passing of a great champion. Even sadder is (as of this writing) the Augusta National couldn't take the time to post some kind of tribute on the official website.

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