Half-ballerina, half-bastard: how Seve Ballesteros changed my life

Seve Ballesteros had been ill for some time, but to hear of his death was still a shock, and a tragically untimely loss of a truly great sportsman.  His wild, extraordinary skills cut through the swathes of golf's tank-topped trundlers like a gladiator in a bingo hall.

Severiano Ballesteros, Spain, 6th September 1984 (Photo copyright: George Herringshaw).


I was too young to really appreciate Seve's ability when he was in his prime, but the great man did inadvertently teach me a very valuable lesson, and one which I have never forgotten.  Do not trust what authority figures tell you is right.

It was 1983, and I was in Mrs Boyd's class at Braunstone Frith Infant School, Leicester.  In my schoolbook, I was writing about some presents I had received, so it must have been either post-Christmas or post-birthday.

My most-prized gift was a set of junior golf clubs, endorsed by the great man himself.  As I remember, it was a slim, yellow and black bag containing about half a dozen different clubs, and I wrote about them in my book.

Mrs Boyd took it in for marking, and next day, it came back.  There were a few ticks and comments in the obligatory red pen, but one of them was rather surprising.

In between the 'S' and the 'e' of the sentence listing my presents, Mrs Boyd had inserted an arrow, topped with a 't'.  I had not, according to her, received a Seve Ballesteros golf set, but a "Steve" Ballesteros one.  Being a polite small boy, I made no complaint, but at that moment, a whole new world was opened, one in which I, the pupil, could be right, and the people in a position of power could be quite, quite wrong.  It was liberation, even to a five year-old.

I like to think that, in a tiny way, this was a message straight from Seve himself.  Don't play things the way they want you to, he said to me, play them your own way.

I'm sorry to say I never really took the message properly to heart.  Too often I have remained strait-jacketed by fear, preferring to behave as others tell me to, rather than throwing the shackles aside and doing things as I want.

Nowhere has this been more true than on the cricket field.  I know I can bat, but I never show it, always making silly mistakes, or getting bogged down trying not to get out rather than trying to score runs.  Batting with fear rather than freedom.

Hearing the announcement of Seve's passing on Saturday morning's radio news, and the tributes to his refusal to play any way other than the way he wanted to, I made a decision for that afternoon's cricket match.  I would bat the way Seve would have batted.

And when I got my chance for Ovington II against Copmanthorpe II, I did exactly that.  After missing my first ball, I hit the next delivery for four.  And the next one.  And the next one.  And then, having gotten bored with fours, I hit three sixes instead.  In the end, off just 15 scoring shots, I amassed 45 'rapid' runs, before being bowled off the last ball of the innings.

It was by some way my highest score in club cricket, and as I strolled off the field of play, I smiled to myself and silently thanked my oblivious Spanish mentor.

Rest in peace, Seve.  You have no idea how many people's lives you made better, in so many strange and super ways.  We shall miss you very much.

Alan Partridge's Golfing Action - Monkey
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