Severiano, son of Baldomero Ballesteros and Carmen Sota, was born on April 9th, 1957 in the small fisherman’s village of Pedreña, on the southern side of the Bay of Santander in northern Spain. This area has one of the greatest golfing traditions in Continental Europe.
At the age of ten, he took part in his first caddy tournament. He recorded a score of 51 over 9 holes at Pedreña Golf Club, starting with a 10 on the first hole – a par 3. The following year, he finished second with 42.At the age of 12 he played the full 18 holes and won the event with a score of 79. His progress from then was rapid – at 13 he shot a 65. Seve was not often allowed to play much on the local Royal Pedreña Golf Club so most of his early golf was played on the beach and when he climbed over the wall in Pedreña to play the course on moonlit nights.
He turned professional on March 22nd, 1974 just short of his 17th birthday and announced his retirement on July 16th, 2007 at the age of 50, during the British Open. His career achievements include 93 tournament victories including five Majors; British Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988; US Masters 1980 and 1983. He won five World Match-Plays, two World Cups and played in nine Ryder Cups Matches, captaining the winning team in Spain in 1997.
In 1974 he finished twentieth in his first pro event, the Spanish Professionals Championship at San Cugat. He was disappointed as he expected to win. Shortly after that he won his first Under-25 Spanish Championship in Pedreña. The following week he was runner-up at the Santander Open and seven days later he won the Biscay Open. These events were part of the North of Spain Circuit. Internationally his best result at that time was at the Italian Open where he finished 5th. In his early years playing abroad he had the support of his friend, Doctor Cesar Campuzano.
The 1976 British Open where he finished second to Johnny Miller, sharing the honour with Jack Nicklaus, was where Seve introduced himself to the world stage. He hit the headlines for three days for his dashing good looks, ingenious shotmaking and courageous play that ended with a daring pitch and run chip shot on the 72nd hole for a birdie that was seen all over the world. That year he won the Order of Merit in Europe with victories at the Dutch Open and Trophy Lancome, catching Arnold Palmer from 4 shots behind with nine holes to go. He also won the World Cup of Golf team event in California with Manuel Piñero for Spain.
In 1977 he again won the European Order of Merit and in 1978 his wins in USA, Kenya and Japan turned him into an international star. He won six consecutive tournaments in four continents, a feat unmatched for many years. By the age of 20 he had already won golf tournaments on five continents.
Of the five Majors he won the first was the British Open in 1979. He was the youngest winner in the 20th century. He stunned the golfing world at 23 in 1980 by leading the Masters at Augusta by 10 shots with 9 holes to go, reeling off 23 birdies and an eagle. He was the first European and only the second foreigner to win the coveted the Green Jacket. In 1983 Seve captured his second Masters title with an astonishing start in the last round: birdie, eagle, par, birdie.
The 1984 British Open was held at St. Andrews, the iconic and historic Home of Golf. Seve won showing all his charisma and passion, especially on the last hole when after holing a 6 meter putt for a birdie, he performed his now famous fist punching victory ritual that was to become the iconic moment in his career and one of the most famous pictures in golf. That picture has become the Seve Ballesteros Foundation’s logo. His third British Open came in 1988 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the venue of the first Claret Jug win in 1979.
Seve is widely regarded as the reason for changing the history of the Ryder Cup and making it one of the most famous sporting events in the world today. Because of Seve the event changed from USA v British & Irish players to USA v Continental European players. In 1979 Seve and Antonio Garrido were the first continental players allowed into the team which from then represented all of Europe. He represented Europe in nine editions of the Ryder Cup, eight as a player and once as the Captain.
In 1983 the US team won by only one point at home, and in 1985 Europe won after a 28 year of drought. It was in 1987 at Muirfield Village when they beat the Americans on their home soil, that Captain Tony Jacklin paired Seve with José María Olazabal creating probably the best pairing in golf history. Europe retained the Trophy 1989 and it has been a keenly fought event ever since. In 1995 Seve played his last Ryder Cup at Oak Hill, and in 1997 he realised one of his dreams when the Ryder Cup was held for the first time outside British Isles in Valderrama, in Spain where he captained the winning team.
Seve was responsible for popularising the game of golf in Spain and in Continental Europe. His company Amen Corner, started in 1986, promoted golf by organising over 50 international European Tour Events in Spain including the Spanish Open. In addition he created the Seve Trophy with the European Tour, a match between Great Britain & Ireland and Continental Europe. He was also a golf course architect and designed 34 projects with his company Trajectory.
Throughout his life many awards and important decorations were bestowed upon him: Medalla de Oro al Mérito Deportivo in Spain 1980, Príncipe de Asturias de los Deportes 1989, Gran Cruz de la Real Orden del Mérito Deportivo 1993, Olympic Order of Merit 1998, Hijo Predilecto de Cantabria 1999, World Golf Hall of Fame 1999, Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) 2000, Spanish Athlete of the Century 2000, Honorary Ambassador of the Brand Spain 2004, BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009.
On October 5th 2008, he was diagnosed a brain tumour. On May 7th, 2011 Seve died at his home in Pedreña, his birthplace.
Seve always said that the most exciting moment in his life was when his eldest son, Javier, caddied for him at the British Open in 2006. His three children: Javier (1990), Miguel (1992) and Carmen (1994) are now in charge of his legacy and keeping his memory alive through the Seve Ballesteros Foundation.