Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It’s Wednesday Oct. 15, 2008. In a Madrid hospital, Seve Ballesteros is recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor. You can count on two things on following a surgical procedure. The doctor never says anything other than surgery was successful and he/she never issues a specific time line for recovery.

Realizing this, we can only hope for a complete and speedy recovery for one of the most charismatic golfers of all time. Personally, I fondly remember the day Ballesteros was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Praise for how he won his first British Open championship by hitting a tournament-saving shot from a parking lot, how he almost singlehandedly raised the European Tour from the ashes, how he resurrected the Ryder Cup flowed like fine Spanish wine. I remember that day, but moreover I remember a day, or moreover a week in 1983.

It was March of ’83 and the place was the Sea Turtle Inn in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. It was Tuesday morning and I’d arrived at the hotel the previous evening after driving from 18 miles north of Boston over the weekend. Being that this was the first Tournament Players Championship that I covered, I was placed in the media hotel as far away from the course as possible.

That explained why I was there. I never found out why Seve was staying there. Regardless, as I entered the lobby that morning, the first person I recognized was Seve. He was pacing the lobby waiting for a courtesy car to pick him up and take him to the course. (This was before the players were issued cars to transport themselves). Since I was headed to the course, I introduced myself to the Spaniard and offered him a lift. With a perceptible sigh of relief, he accepted.

Due to traffic, it was a solid 30-minute ride to the TPC Sawgrass. During the ride, I found Seve to be humorous, charming and apparently a great guy. Then something happened. As I turned the corner to head up the road to the clubhouse, it felt as if the temperature in the car had dropped 20-degrees. I pulled up to the front of the clubhouse and as soon as I stopped, Seve bolted from the car. There wasn’t a “thanks for the ride” or even an acknowledgment that I was alive. He just got out and almost ran into the clubhouse. Okay, my ego didn’t demand any acknowledgment, but I thought it strange.

The next morning brought a close duplicate. I saw him in the lobby, offered a ride, was entertained on the ride and then it happened again. The guy who’d been in my car disappeared and was replaced by an iceberg. This time I asked what was up.

“I’m in my office now,” he said. “I wouldn’t come in the press room while you’re writing and bother you. I expect the same.”

I’d dealt with many professional athletes prior to that day and some of them more famous than Seve, but I’d never seen that level of intensity that could be turned on as quickly before or since. Since then, I’ve seen the jovial Seve and I’ve seen the other as well. To be honest, I prefer the former. I can say this. I’ve never seen an athlete who brings more to the table as far as determination to win.

Having said that should he bring that level of determination to his recovery program, he’ll be up and around in no time.

Bartender, a couple of tall, cool glasses of sangria for Seve and myself as I toast his health. Salud mi amigo, salud!

See you on the first tee,


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