Severiano ‘Seve’ Ballesteros was born on April 9, 1957, in Pedrena in the Cantabria region of Spain. As a part of a gifted golfing family – Seve’s brothers and uncle have also played at professional level – Seve learned the game after one of his brothers had given him a cut down 3-iron, and Seve would practice hitting stones on the beaches near to his home while he should have been in school.
Seve turned professional in 1974, at the tender age of 16. As wayward as he was brilliant, it was only two years before he gained international recognition when in 1976 he finished joint-second with Jack Nicklaus in The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, behind American Johnny Miller, where he had led the tournament entering the final day. Seve went on to win the European Tour Order of Merit in that same year, and would also win it a further five times throughout his career, including 1977 and 1978.
Seve has won at least one tournament each year between 1976 and 1995, including a stretch in 1978 where he would win on six consecutive weeks on three different continents and throughout his illustrious career, Seve won a total of 91 tournaments worldwide, including five Major tournaments.
A two-time U.S Masters champion, Seve also won The Open Championship three times; in 1979 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and scene of his famous ‘car park recovery’ shot; 1984 at St.Andrews and again in 1988, back at Royal Lytham & St. Annes – this time without the car-park. Seve’s first Masters win came in 1980, where he became the first European player and youngest tournament winner of the prestigious Green Jacket; the latter only bested by Tiger Woods. He won the Green Jacket again in 1983 by four shots from American duo Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.
Ballesteros was a supreme matchplay golfer, which would see him become a stalwart of the Ryder Cup teams throughout the 80s and 90s, as well as win the World Matchplay Championship five times. His Ryder Cup partnership with countryman Jose-Maria Olazabal is the most successful in Ryder Cup history with 11 wins and 2 halves from 15 matches, and from all matches he has played he has amassed 20 points out a possible 37. However, his defining moment in the team tournament came when as Captain, he guided the European side to victory in 1997 at Valderrama Golf Club in his native Spain.
Due to ongoing back problems, Seve’s appearances in competitions became increasingly fleeting, although he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, where he joined the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, in 1999. Seve was absent from competitive golf for some years before returning to the course to play in the 2005 Madrid open, and contested the 2006 Open Championship having played only the French Open beforehand, where he missed the cut.
Seve announced his retirement from competing in tournament golf in July 2007, although continues to captain the GB & Ireland team against a Continental Europe team in the bi-annual Seve Trophy; a role he has adopted since its inception in 2000. He also runs a thriving golf course design business in his native Spain.
In late 2008, Seve was admitted to Madrid’s La Paz hospital where he underwent multiple operations to remove a brain tumor, and was at one point described as ‘gravely ill.’ He has since been discharged from hospital and has undergone chemotherapy, to which he has responded well.