New Orleans remembers the late, great Seve Ballesteros

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The Champions Gazebo at Lakewood - Eight World Golf Hall of Fame Members won at Lakewood - Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green.

The Champions Gazebo at Lakewood – Eight World Golf Hall of Fame Members won at Lakewood:
Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Ben Crenshaw and Hubert Green.

He was only 28 in 1985 when he came to Lakewood to compete in the New Orleans Open.

The swashbuckling matador from Spain who played with no fear of failure had already won the 1980 and 1983 Masters and the 1979 and 1984 British Opens.  Great champions want to win where great champions have won, and Lakewood was no exception for Seve Ballesteros.  He wanted to win where Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Hubert Green and Tom Watson had won.

Seve came to Lakewood as the greatest golfer from Europe, and his star power made him an instant fan favorite that produced the largest attendance in the history of the tournament.  I am privileged to have witnessed this win.  

My curiosity got me thinking about what the other players were saying about Seve in 1985 at Lakewood.  I dug into the archives of The Times Picayune for some great quotes.  The quote from the U.S. Open and Masters Champion Fuzzy Zoeller sums up the Spainard’s reputation for errant shots: “Seve drives the ball into territory Daniel Boone couldn’t find.”  His ability to recover was best explained by 1985 tournament participant and 1973 New Orleans Open Champion Jack Nicklaus, “When I think of Seve, I think of imagination.  Around the greens, he’s one of the most inventive players you’ll ever see.  He knows the shot to play, and he knows how to play it.” 

Tom Watson who won in New Orleans in 1980 and 1981 said of Seve, “Ballesteros has learned to control his power.  When he plays well, he can shoot lights out.”  Ben Crenshaw, who would also go on to win at Lakewood, in 1987 said, “Let’s face it, that boy is magic.  Seve now comes as close to being the most complete golfer I’ve ever seen.  He was born with a golf club in his hand.  When he sets up over a ball, it looks like that’s what he was born to do.”

In 1985 at Lakewood, Seve lived up to all of the quotes.  He did hit it everywhere, did get it up-and-down from everywhere and did make crucial putts.  Due to rain, the tournament was shortened to 54 holes.  Ballesteros had scores of 68-69-68 to beat John Mahaffey and Peter Jacobsen by two strokes.  Seve collected 91 professional victories but only five on American soil including two wins at The Masters.  Ballesteros liked New Orleans as he was proud to say, “I like your food, I like your city.”

When I think of golfers who have made a lasting impact, Seve Ballesteros will always be among the top of the list.  His passion for the game brought life to the Ryder Cup Matches where he played on the team eight times and captained the side once. 

On May 7, after a 2 1/2 year battle with brain cancer, he left us too soon at the age of 54. His legacy will live forever and New Orleans will always be a part of his history.  We should all be very proud Seve touched our great city.

 

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