St Andrews mourns Seve

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THE golf world was in shock this week following the death of Seve Ballesteros.

The 54-year-old passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning at his home in Pedreña, surrounded by his family.

In 2008 he was treated for a malignant brain tumour and he had been making a recovery, but last Friday his neurological condition severly worsened.

The charismatic Spaniard will forever be remembered for his iconic celebration on the 18th green of the Old Course after sinking the winning putt in the 1984 Open.

Punching the air with delight, he turned around to acknowledge the crowd with a look of pure joy on his face. It was a picture that went around the world.

It became the defining moment of his career despite winning two more Opens at Lytham St Anne’s and becoming a double Masters winner at Augusta.

Even the picture of Ballesteros being presented with the Claret Jug in front of the R and A clubhouse was no match for the raw emotion he displayed earlier after sinking the winning putt.

That made him a firm favourite in St Andrews and this week tributes were paid to the charasmatic Spaniard who is credited with inspiring a generation to pick up a club for the first time.

The R&A said he had played an incomparable part in making the Open Championship, and professional golf, what it is today.

Chief executive Peter Dawson, added: “Seve was one of the brightest lights of our game and was an inspiration to millions.

‘‘His iconic celebration here at St Andrews ranks as one of sport’s greatest moments.

“The game has lost one of the greats; it is a very sad day for golf.”

Ballesteros had been due to make an emotional return to St Andrews last year but was forced to pull out of the Champions Tournament on doctors’ advice.

As well as his individual haul of five majors, Ballesteros was equally enthusiastic about the Ryder Cup, playing in eight tournaments and captaining the European team to victory in 1997.

In his autobiography, he confirmed that the highlight of his career was at St Andrews when he realised he had won the Open at the Home of Golf.

He recalled: “When the ball dropped in, I knew I was the champion. This was the happiest moment of my whole sporting life. My moment of glory, my most fantastic shot.”

Among those who paid tribute to Seve this week was Freuchie artist James Fretwell, who produced an image of the golfer inspired by his hat-trick of Open triumphs.

He said: ‘‘We all wished that Seve would be able to return to the Home of Golf last July to enjoy the heart-felt reception from the Open Championship galleries that he richly deserved. Sadly it wasn’t to be.

‘‘Whenever I look out across the 18th Green at the Old Course into the summer evening sunbeams, the Seve I will remember is punching the air in delight, smiling back in one of the most uplifting displays of pure joy ever seen.

‘‘What a magical memory to be given, and to treasure.’’