Sunday, December 13, 2009

Seve gets Lifetime Achievement Award from BBC

Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Jack Nicklaus and José Maria Olazábal led the tributes for Seve Ballesteros as the legendary Spaniard was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony this evening.
Fellow professionals, such as European No 1 Lee Westwood, and a host of other Ryder Cup players past and present, George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, and Richard Hills, European Ryder Cup Director, and many more friends from the golfing world gathered on the stage at the Sheffield Arena to applaud the 52 year old Spanish great, who has been battling a brain tumour since collapsing at Madrid Airport in October last year.
The award celebrates those who have made a significant contribution to sport and demonstrable success in their relevant sport throughout their careers.
The BBC’s voice of golf, commentator Peter Alliss, said: “Seve was only 19 when he burst onto the golfing scene – charismatic, swashbuckling, a genius.”
He went on to describe him as “a magician at work. Golf by Seve was art not sport.”
“Seve Ballesteros went from teenage sensation, five time Major champion to Ryder Cup hero but to us, he is and always will be, simply Seve.”
Jack Nicklaus described him as “One of the most creative golfers I have ever seen”, adding “He had to be, as he hit the ball in places you just couldn’t get out of, but he got out of them.”
European Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie, spoke on behalf of all those in Sheffield, when he said: “It is a great honour for us all to be here tonight to honour you - members of Ryder Cup teams, The European Tour and past captains of The Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup would not be the global spectacle it is today without you. We wish you speedy recovery Seve and we hope to see you play at St Andrews in 2O10 during the Open Championship. Many congratulations on this prestigious award.”
The award was presented to Seve in his Pedrena home by his close friend José Maria Olazábal, who paid an emotional tribute as he handed over the award. He said: “Hello to everyone in Sheffield and especially to my professional friends. I have someone very special sitting next to me, my dear friend Seve. I first met you when I was 15 years old and since then we have been through a lot. You belong to a group of professionals who changed the face of golf around the world.
“Your achievements speak for themselves. Winner of five Major events, more than 80 tournaments around the world but it is not just those achievements which make you special. More so it is the way you did it. You did it with lots of imagination, skill and most of all you did it with all your heart. I know that as I have had the privilege of being close to you on some of those occasions.
"You were the first to play the game of golf with such desire and passion and by doing so you made a lot of us believe it was possible to achieve those goals. It is an immense pleasure for me to present you with this Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations my friend.”
The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award went to Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs, with Formula One World Champion Jenson Button second and Heptaphlete Jessica Ennis aking third place.
The youngest of four brothers who are all golf professionals, Ballesteros first made his mark on the world stage when, aged just 19, he was runner-up to Johnny Miller in the 1976 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
A chip-and-run he played between bunkers on the final hole to tie with Jack Nicklaus for second demonstrated a gift for the game that has had few equals.
Ballesteros was the youngest ever winner of the European Order of Merit title that season, and it took him just three years to lift the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham.
That was the first of three Open Championships as well as two Masters Tournament titles. No European had triumphed at Augusta until Ballesteros did it in 1980 and it opened the floodgates - Nick Faldo won three times, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal twice and Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam once each.
His influence on The Ryder Cup was just as great. At the suggestion of Nicklaus the contest was changed in 1979 so that players from Europe rather than just Great Britain and Ireland were eligible and Ballesteros made his debut that year.
Nobody displayed more passion for the event and, with Olazabal, Ballesteros formed a truly formidable partnership. In 15 games they won 11 and lost only two.
Ballesteros reigned as World Number One for 61 weeks between 1986 - the year the rankings were introduced - and 1989 and he was an obvious choice as Ryder Cup Captain when the match was taken to Spain for the first time in 1997.
He was the dominant personality all week at Valderrama, waking assistant Miguel Angel Jimenez up in the middle of the night with ideas.
Ballesteros got the result he wanted against a side which included Tiger Woods for the first time. Woods was beaten by Italian Costantino Rocca in the singles.
Nobody has entertained golf fans more, and just as Arnold Palmer had "Arnie's Army" to cheer him on so Ballesteros had "Seve's Soldiers". The messages of support he has received since his collapse have meant an incredible amount to him.
He has undergone four operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy and has made it his goal to be at St Andrews - scene of his greatest win in 1984 - for next year's Open Championship.
Ballesteros has even talked of playing in the Championship as a thank-you to his fans.



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