It was Friday the 14th of October 2005. I will never forget that date. It was a huge day for me. I’m not one of those lucky enough to have been brought up on golf from a young age. It was not a sport that was played in my home. We would see the great victories, like Olazábal’s Masters wins, of course, but we didn’t play, it wasn’t on the TV apart from the Ryder Cup. I was barely aware of the one at Valderrama, for example, I just saw it mentioned on the news, little more.
On that 14 October, fourteen years ago, I saw Seve Ballesteros for the first time in the flesh. He wasn’t playing his best golf any more, but I followed him week after week. My dear friend David Durán was responsible for my addiction. That Friday, the second day of the Open de Madrid, I finally opened my eyes and a relationship began that eventually made golf my life.
It was not only the first time I saw Seve live, it was also my first time at a professional tournament and, if memory serves, it was also my first time on a golf course. I came from a background of football and basketball, the sports I normally wrote about when I was at Marca, before starting out on my venture with Ten Golf, and I was amazed by what I saw.
Accustomed to enclosed venues, it seemed unsurmountable to me. I thought to myself, as a journalist, how difficult it must be, if not impossible, to report on a golf tournament from the course. There is no way of seeing everyone, or of knowing what is going on. Maybe you are following one match and the most important one is taking place a few kilometres away. From a professional point of view, these things seemed indomitable. Of course, then I discovered the so-called ‘Media Centre’ tents and the tireless work carried out by the press teams (ahh, the great María Acacia López Bachiller) to facilitate the work of the intrepid and occasionally clueless scribes.
The next thing to amaze me was Severiano. We’d gone to the tournament solely that day to see follow the genius from Cantabria for 18 holes. Of course. I was just finding out about him, like an ignoramus, surrounded by fans whose knowledge and passion were light years ahead of mine. Apart from his game, which at this point was not exactly at its peak, and which I was not knowledgeable enough to judge, I was stunned by his personality, the way he walked around the course and, above all, the way the fans following him from outside the ropes gazed at him. It was interest and admiration, but also, much more than that. What I saw in them was devotion. As if he were a divine apparition. It’s the same feeling I had a year later when I saw Tiger Woods live for the first time, at the Ryder Cup at the K Club in Dublin. It felt like time was standing still…
All of this took place at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, the same stage where the revamped and rejuvenated Open de España is being held. Sadly, our great Seve is no longer with us, but if a casual spectator is at a golf tournament for the first time, I would recommend they follow Jon Rahm for 18 holes. With a look at the fans’ eyes they will see a very similar devotion and, then, they will be overcome by the feeling that time, again, is standing still.
By: Alejandro Rodríguez