Story 6 Ballesteros Battle

By Brian HewittDecember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
The great Severiano Ballesteros is still alive. What has not survived is the prime of his professional golf career. For the longest time, late this year, it didnt look like Ballesteros himself was going to live through a fierce battle with brain cancer.
 
The good news for him and the golf world ' that followed, from near and far, the guarded reports from Spain of his struggle ' is that, yes, the great Severiano Ballesteros is still alive.
 
So what follows is an obituary only for a golf game that long ago ceased to function as it had in his glorious golfing youth. Actually, this is more of a celebration of that glory. Lord knows its better to celebrate when the subject of the recognition is still among us.
 
The cancer arrived without much warning in early October when Ballesteros, 51, collapsed in a Madrid airport. The attack left doctors trying to explain why with words and phrases like edema and intracerebral hematoma and great complexity.
 
They might as well have been trying to make us understand how it was Ballesteros was able to famously get it up and down at the 16th from that car park to win the 1979 Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
 
He brought a gleam of sunshine to a game that, until then, mainly involved umbrellas, wrote one Englishman of the Spaniard.
 
Former world No. 1 Nick Price, a South African and a Ballesteros contemporary, put it this way: When Seve was in full flight, the sky was the limit. Most of us have about 100 ways to shoot a 66. Seve had about 10,000 ways to shoot a 66.
 
To be sure, Seve played his best golf at a fever pitch, daring you to catch him if you could. Pitch and Catch. If Seve Ballesteros had been a baseball player he would have been a fireballer for sure. He was a roaring blast furnace of an athlete. But he could also get you out with his guile.
 
More appropriately, if he had been a matador, Ballesteros striking looks would have made the women at the corrida swoon; his skills with the cape and sword would have stirred even Hemingway; and his daring would have summoned comparisons to the storied toreros, Manolete and the wondrous Juan Belmonte.
 
Seve didnt play golf so much as he painted the game on a canvas you couldnt buy in any art supply store. The brushes of brilliant countrymen Velazquez and Goya didnt make a sound. But, por favor, a moment of silence today for the beautiful noise Seve made with his clubs.
 
His surpassing athletic gifts deserted him much too early without even leaving a forwarding address. Never straight off the tee, his driver couldnt keep the ball on the world in recent years.
 
So Ballesteros spent much of his last two playing decades, often bitter and contentious, lost in a torment you could see in his eyes. For every metaphor his golf had inspired, there were now 1,000 missed fairways that tortured his sporting soul and defaced too many of his scorecards.
 
The record books will show Ballesteros won 94 titles including six European Orders of Merit and five major championships ' three British Opens and two Masters. He played on three victorious Ryder Cup teams and added one more triumph as captain in 1997 at Valderrama in his native land.
 
The Ryder Cup was his passion, providing Europe with 20 full points and five halves in 37 matches. It was also the arena in which his competitive passion ' certain Americans called it gamesmanship ' fully surfaced. Say what you will, but Ballesteros, more than anybody else before or after, knew what the Ryder Cup meant to him.
 
The Americans nobly play for the honor of their own flag. But to this day they havent consistently figured out how to work up a proper motivation to beat the amorphous Europe. The Europeans, on the other hand, waste little pride defending their continents reputation, saving their energies instead for the task of beating the Americans. Ballesteros was the poster boy for this mindset from the moment Great Britain and Ireland were allowed to add continentals to their side in 1979.
 
But there was even more than that with Ballesteros when it came to the Ryder Cup. It was personal. John Hopkins, the distinguished golf voice of The Times of London, called it Seves personal medieval crusade.
 
It was popular for a long time to describe Ballesteros as the Arnold Palmer of European golf. Truth is, their differences were greater than their similarities. Mark Twain once said, The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. But for all that, Palmer and Ballesteros were the only two players of the latter part of the 20th century who could correctly be described as dashing and/or swashbuckling. Greg Norman was a distant third.
 
It is, Norman said, while Ballesteros was fighting his way through the four brain surgeries, a bit of a reality check for all of us at that age.
 
Golf historians will tell you there are no more than three or four dozen golfers who ever lived that deserved the label great. Ballesteros was one of them. But what makes him different than the others, from a recognition standpoint, is the importance of television to the growth of the game.
 
There are newsreels and video footage available of Jones, Hagen, Nelson, Snead, Sarazen and others. But Ballesteros was the first great player whose greatest achievements on the course were almost all recorded on live television. We know him so much better that way than we do his predecessors.
 
And that helps explain the massive outpouring of worldwide support that followed the news that doctors had discovered the brain tumor. Everybody who had been paying even the least bit of attention, it seemed, had a Seve story.
 
One of the best came from Mark Simon, a native Augustan and an unabashed golf fan. In 1983, the year Ballesteros won his first Masters, Seve and his compadres rented a house across Washington Road from Augusta National.
 
According to Simon, Ballesteros and one of his friends set up a chipping course around their rented house and yard. They played it every morning and later in the day after his rounds. They allowed very few of us to be in the gallery, Simon said. Of course, being Augustans, we know how to respect our heroes.
 
Simons story conjures up images right out of a Dan Jenkins novel where his buddies would make bets on who could get a golf ball from the first tee at Goat Hills into a shoe in somebodys closet across town.
 
Who wouldnt have wanted to see Seve chipping and pitching from the garden, through the front hallway, up the staircase and off the balcony onto the chaise lounge? How much could the scalpers have gotten for one of those tickets?
 
Or as Lee Trevino once said of Ballesteros: He could get it up and down from a running cement mixer.
 
A worldwide prayer vigil continued for Seve much of October and November. It was noted that the malignant tumor on the brain of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy had turned up in June and he was still alive. It was also noted, over and over, by those that knew him closely that Ballesteros was a fighter.
 
By the middle of December Ballesteros was an outpatient. He apologized for being difficult with the doctors. Former Ryder Cup opponents knew that part of him. Seve Ballesteros was not above petulance.
 
Then this statement appeared on his Web site: There is a long recovery time ahead and I shall keep on fighting with patience and determination.Thanks to them (the doctors) I will be able to play the mulligan of my life, which I expect to enjoy at my best. Six days before Christmas Ballesteros began chemotherapy treatments at his home in northern Spain.
 
So it is that the life of Seve Ballesteros has been one, long brilliant storm. During his golfing heyday he was every bit as hard on himself as he would be on the doctors this year. His physiognomy back then was like one of those speeded up elapsed time clocks ' all flashing smiles and bright white teeth one moment and dark-complected disappointment and frustration the next.
 
He was a prisoner of his own talent and emotions. And that talent tormented those emotions when it revealed how good he could be at his best only to wag a finger in his face when he came up short.
 
Everybody loses their game eventually. But for now, Ballesteros still has his life.
 
Related Links:
  • Seve Ballesteros begins chemotherapy
  • Top 10 Stories of the Year archive
  • Getty Images

    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

    Getty Images

    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

    Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”