Europe's Trailblazer

By Rex HoggardMay 7, 2011, 10:48 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”

It was quintessential Seve – bold, to the point and utterly unapologetic. Ballesteros delivered the gem one year at the Masters after a particularly ugly four-putt. In many ways it defined the man, if not an entire generation.

Seve Ballesteros
Seve Ballesteros rarely hit a fairway, but could get up and down from anywhere. (Getty Images)

 Ballesteros was a magician minus the mirrors, getting up and down from a car park, a stone wall, anywhere really. If there were a backswing and a bet to be won he was at his slashing best.

In the end the only pinch he could not scramble out of was cancer, although he took the awful disease to extra holes. To say this morning’s tee sheet was missing something misses the point.

Ballesteros played golf like good jazz, jazz that you laugh at.

Paul Casey could only laugh one spring morning too many years ago to remember. He’d idolized the Spaniard since he could grip a golf club, marveled at his flair and is quick to count him as his hero. So when the Englishman got paired with Ballesteros at the Spanish Open early in his career, it was like Christmas in May.

“I was nervous as hell,” Casey recalled. “I’d watched him my whole life hitting these rockets out of the trees and now I had a chance to play with him.”

The first hole was a par 5 and, on cue, the often-wayward Ballesteros hit his second shot onto a stone wall separating the golf course from a housing development.

“Out comes the wedge and he hits this almost splash shot off the wall to 6 feet and makes the birdie,” Casey smiles widely. “Right there and then I could have walked in.”

If Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus paved the way for modern American professionals, Ballesteros created a template that practically every European aspired to replicate.

“He did a lot for the European Tour like Arnie did over here,” said Justin Rose, affectionately calling Ballesteros the “car park champion” in honor of his 1979 Open Championship victory.

Young Tiger Woods hit putts late into California nights to win the Masters, like Jack. Little Europeans, regardless of nationality, roped 3-irons over and around trees to claim the claret jug. I am Seve.

Ballesteros’ five majors made an entire continent believe and his verve lifted their collective consciousness. Not only could they win the big one, they could do it with style.

Jason Sobel writes that while Seve Ballesteros may be gone, his spirt lives on in the modern player: Click to read

Randall Mell talks to Paul Azinger, who reflects on Ballesteros as an intense competitor and friend: Click to read

A look back on Ballesteros' career, from his major championship moments to his Ryder Cup greatness: View photos

“There’s no doubt him winning the majors and leading the charge into the U.S. certainly made it easier for us,” Padraig Harrington said.

It is a legacy that transcended time and a terminal disease.

Even Italy’s Edoardo Molinari, who was 7 when Ballesteros won his last major (1988 British Open), made the man a model.

“A lot of European golf is what it is now due to Seve for the most part,” Molinari said early Saturday at Quail Hollow. “Everybody back in Europe, no matter what country you are from, had Seve as a hero.”

Molinari fondly remembered the inspirational phone call Ballesteros made to the European Ryder Cup team before last year’s matches. Even in his twilight Ballesteros had enough magic to go around.

It’s not just that he won – Nick Faldo won majors, Bernhard Langer won majors – it’s the way in which he enforced his will on a leaderboard or an opponent. Whether it was a lash against a gale at St. Andrews or a gutty half point at The Belfry, Ballesteros exuded a spirit that was contagious to an entire Continent.

No one has matched Ballesteros’ larger-than-life persona, but he gave an entire continent something to shoot for, a blueprint that little ones from Berlin to Belfast could emulate.“He was a guy I wanted to watch because you always knew his golf was exciting,” an emotional Casey said on Friday. “Seve had it all. It was the flair, the smile, the never-say-die attitude that was very attractive.”

Ultimately, it was even the way he passed.

“That’s when you see the real strength in people when they are dealing with something like (a brain tumor),” Rose said. “He showed a lot of class.”

Quietly early Saturday morning European golf lost a trailblazer, a patriarch of an entire generation. Some golfers win championships and money, Ballesteros won over an entire continent.

The Europeans will carry on in Ballesteros’ image – bold, to the point and utterly unapologetic. Fittingly it is the greatest tribute to one of the game’s greatest competitors.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggardGC

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.