Seve Ballesteros was one of professional golf’s top players during a career that spanned three decades. Ballesteros captured five major championships in a 10-year span, including the Masters Tournament twice. Ballesteros was also one of the more popular golfers but was forced to call it quits when back problems plagued him in the early 1990s. He then was diagnosed with a malignant tumor, which ultimately cost him his life in 2011 at the age of 54.
Seve Ballesteros won five majors
Seve Ballesteros came from a golfing family as three of his brothers went on to become professional golfers. His uncle, Ramon Sota, finished sixth in the Masters Tournament in 1965. Ballesteros turned professional in 1974 when he was 16 years old. Two years later, he made a name for himself with a second-place finish at The Open Championship in 1976.
Ballesteros bounced back and claimed The Open Championship in 1979. It was the first of three times he won that tournament. Ballesteros was known for his strength off the tee but didn’t always know where the ball was going. In that 1979 Open win, he hit the ball into a car park on the 16th hole and still managed a birdie. Ballesteros also won The Open Championship in 1984 and 1988.
In 1980, Ballesteros won his first Masters Tournament in which he became the first European to win the tourney. At the time, he was also the youngest to claim victory at the Masters at age 23. Tiger Woods has since broken the mark when he won it at 21. Ballesteros came back and won the Masters Tournament again in 1983. Ballesteros was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999.
The end of Ballesteros’ career
Seve Ballesteros officially retired in 2007. He finished his career with 91 professional victories. He was named the European Tour Player of the Year in 1986, 1988, and 1991. Back problems plagued Ballesteros beginning in the late 1990s and his game suffered.
Not only did his golf game struggle, but he also struggled mentally. When he turned 50, he made his debut on the Champions Tour. He finished last in his only tournament and had to make one of the toughest decisions of his life. “For a few months there was something confused inside me, an internal fight,” he said, according to The Guardian. “My head said ‘I think you should retire’ but my heart was telling me you would be better to continue playing and competing.
“It was difficult for quite a while but finally I decided this year to go and try the Champions Tour. I went there, and the weather was nice, but I only played one tournament and I came back. That really made me think very deeply and really question either you continue or you stop playing. I made probably the hardest decision of my career and I decided to retire.”
Seve Ballesteros diagnosed with brain tumor in 2008
In October of 2008, Seve Ballesteros was at an airport in Spain and lost consciousness. He was taken to a nearby hospital. A few days later, he released a statement updating his condition. “After the exhaustive tests that I have undertaken in the Hospital La Paz (Madrid), they have detected a brain tumor,” the statement read in part, according to Sky Sports.
“I have always sympathized with those people who face illnesses,” the statement continued. “Therefore, I want to remind them that with bravery, faith, serenity, confidence, and a lot of mental strength, we have to face any situation no matter how difficult it is.” In June of 2009, Ballesteros made his first public appearance, saying it was a “miracle” to be alive. He also launched the Seve Ballesteros Foundation to help research brain cancer and assist those fighting it.
On May 7, 2011, Ballesteros died. His death sparked many tributes among his friends and colleagues. Fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia was crushed when he heard the news. “I am devastated to hear of Seve’s passing,” Garcia said, according to The Guardian. “He has inspired me so much throughout my career and I admired him above all for his fighting spirit – never more so than in the manner in which he has battled this terrible illness. It is the most enormous loss to the world of sport to lose this great man, although he will be remembered and loved forever.”