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Privileged to have been there

The story behind this photograph is special for many reasons – not least because it was taken on the vast beach in Pedrena where, as a young boy, Seve famously took his first – and we’ll have to assume anything but tentative – swings with home-made clubs, scuttling pebbles across the sand.

It was a cold February in 1991 when I made the trip to Seve’s home on a two-day assignment along with editor Robert Green and photographer David Cannon to shoot a series of instruction articles for Golf World, the UK magazine to which he was attached at the time. For the more orthodox features we toured the tree-lined fairway of the rolling Pedrena layout to find suitable locations, although you won’t be surprised to learn that the more interesting ideas came about as golf’s greatest escape artist took every opportunity to dazzle us with his ability to contort shots around and over the pines.

And it was going to get better.

From the moment the trip to Pedrena had been confirmed I’d had it in my mind that we could not waste this opportunity to get Seve onto the beach to hit some balls – but would he be up for it? “The beach, sure, why not?,” he shot back at the suggestion. “But first I need to get something from the clubhouse.” Minutes later he emerged from a side door carrying a net of practice balls and a tin can. “I show you something,” he said, climbing behind the wheel of his Range Rover.

With nothing but blue sky as a backdrop, and on sand rendered firm by the retreating tide, Seve kept himself warm hitting 5-iron shots, pinching each one clean off the surface, the flight of the ball arcing like a tracer across the skyline. One of the world’s most gifted golfers was simply in his element, happy as he could be in his home town, doing what he loved best. The sequences were safely in the can. A unique cover story. Job done.

But Seve had a finale planned.

“OK, now I’m going to show you how to practice putting like it is at Augusta,” he announced, taking a sand iron and using it like an old-fashioned brace drill to dig a makeshift hole, into which he pressed in the tin. A nearby piece of driftwood made for the stick and, pulling a pristine white handkerchief from his pocket to use as a flag, Seve completed the picture. “Now I show you,” he repeated, taking his putter and a handful of the remaining practice balls and heading up the beach.

Freshly washed by the sea, the sand was perfect – smooth and firm. And Quick. “Very fast, eh,” Seve ventured as he lined up the downhill, downwind 30-footer. “We stay ’til I make a putt.”

And you really don’t need me to tell you that holing a putt didn’t take very long.

Kneeling to hold the small flagstick he had made, Seve gave us one last flash of that smile. For me, David Cannon’s photograph of that single moment in time captured a pure and lasting image of the late, great Severiano Ballesteros.

We dedicate this Open preview issue to his memory.

See you at Royal St George’s.

July 2011

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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