by Jeff Skinner
Many golf greats gathered today in Predena, Spain at the funeral of Seve Ballesteros. Few men played the game with such vigor and personality. His son, Baldomero, gave a brief eulogy at a short touching ceremony near Seve’s home. This account is from The Brisbane Times.
Thousands of fans joined by golfing greats paid final respects to golf legend Seve Ballesteros on Wednesday in a simple, moving funeral in his home village in northern Spain.
To the sound of a kilted piper, a cortege of Ballesteros’ close family and friends walked from his family home perched over the sea in Predena, to the little nearby church of San Pedro.
Other big golfing names including his close friend Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie — all five Ryder Cup captains — joined the ceremony.
At the head of the procession, one of Ballesteros’ sons, Javier, carried the urn containing his father’s ashes, which were to be scattered in his garden besides a magnolia he had chosen himself.
Thousands of people gathered around the church to follow the funeral on three giant screens.
‘Seve’, who won five majors in a pioneering career, died aged 54 in the early hours of Saturday following respiratory failure.
His death came three years after he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour after losing consciousness at Madrid airport on October 6, 2008.
He underwent four operations to remove the tumor and reduce swelling in his skull, as well as chemotherapy. He called his battle against the tumor the “hardest challenge of my life”.
At the entrance to the village of Pedrena, nestled in the bay of Santander, hung a Spanish flag with the words “Gracias Seve (Thank you Seve). A little further another flag hung from a balcony with two golf clubs and a cap adorned with black ribbon. Flags in the harbor flew at half-mast.
The funeral had been planned to be a simple village affair, “just like any other neighbor’s”, said one of Ballesteros’ brothers, Baldomero.
Paying homage to his father, Baldomero told the assembled mourners: “Papa, as you can see, Javier, Carmen and me are strong just like you asked us…for us it’s not a day to say goodbye, we know you are by our sides and we will always be by yours.”
In his father’s memory the Spanish flag will fly at the Players Championship in Florida this week.
Traditionally, the national flag of the reigning champion flies over the Circle of Champions, but the South African flag that marked the victory of Tim Clark has been replaced.
Tributes have been flooding in since the Spanish golfing legend’s death, with one former Ryder Cup captain, Tony Jacklin, saying: “He was Tiger Woods before Tiger Woods. He had it all.
“He was a one-man army and he was just as good off the course as he was on it….I’ve only met two people in my life with such charisma. One was Arnold (Palmer), the other was Seve.”
Jack Nicklaus, who retired with a record 18 major titles, said the world of golf had lost “a great entertainer and ambassador”.
The American added: “I have always had wonderful respect for Seve?s ability, how he played the game, and the flare he brought to the sport while achieving the success he did.
“It was his creativity, his imagination, and his desire to compete that made him so popular not only in Europe but throughout American galleries, too.”
From the mid-1970s to the 1990s, Seve was one of the sport’s most celebrated personalities, collecting 87 career titles before retiring in 2007 with back problems.
Known for his flamboyant and imaginative style of play, he famously won one of his three British Open titles by playing a shot from a temporary parking lot.
Joining Wednesday’s funeral procession were a group of children wearing the blue uniform of the charity he had set up to fight cancer – each child was carrying a 3 iron, the club with which he had begun his career.