We went to Seve’s hometown Pedrena to meet his friends and family and discover the real ‘El Matador’.
In April 1980, after being told it was “impossible to win in America”, a 23-year-old called Seve Ballesteros slipped on a Green Jacket at Augusta National.
He became the first European golfer to do so, as well as the youngest. His victory would rewrite the future of European golf.
But, according to the people who knew him best – the people he grew up with, who he went to school with, who he practised and played golf with – Major victories were in Seve’s destiny.
“Nothing can stop a genius,” says Pedro Navedo, manager at Pedrena GC – where Seve would scale the wall at the bottom of his garden to play as many holes as he could before it got dark. “He was very hungry and wanted to get better. He wanted to be the best.”
Seve’s desire to be the best was apparent to anyone who knew him – as we discovered when we visited Seve’s family home in Pedrena, to meet his son, his brother and others close to him, so they could relive those four magical days in April 1980, and share their favourite memories of the great man…
Manuel Ballesteros (Seve’s brother)
I remember the 1980 Masters very well. Seve was in excellent form at that time, probably the form of his life. Before the tournament, he told me “my swing is ready for the Masters”.
I celebrated with a few friends at Augusta. Seve didn’t drink much, he was quieter, so we celebrated for him. I drove Seve’s courtesy car back in a rush to get to Atlanta airport for our flight the next morning and got pulled over for speeding. Seve wasn’t there.
I went to Augusta seven times and I caddied for Seve once, in 1985 when Bernhard Langer won. Seve finished second, tied with Ray Floyd and Curtis Strange, but was disappointed. I enjoyed it, but I was under pressure; I had more nerves than I ever had during my own playing days on the European Tour!
Normally, Seve didn’t ask a lot of things, but when he did he wanted very positive feedback from his caddie. We got on very well. I was older by eight years, and when he set out into the golfing world at 17, I took him under my wing. But I didn’t think he’d become such a special player. In those early days, if somebody had asked me if I thought Seve would win five Majors, I would have said no. I thought he was just a very good player.
He had talent, enthusiasm and passion to play golf while being a strong character – you have to have the right attitude to win and when he’s on the golf course, he wants to be the best.
Seve didn’t like to play in America very much and didn’t take my advice to play there more often. It was a pity, because he should have played there more. In my opinion, if he had done, he’d have been an even better player.
He said it was a long way to travel. He’d have felt alone and would miss the village, his friends. He was born 100 yards from here. Seve was a lot more comfortable with the Europeans and British – he loved Britain because he knew the British people loved him.