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Hero's send off for Seve Ballesteros
May 11, 2011

Seve Ballesteros, one of golf’s greatest showmen, was given an emotional send-off by hundreds of mourners at a funeral service in his hometown of Pedrena on Wednesday.

The five-times major winner, an inspiration to a generation of golfers, died at home at the age of 54 in the early hours of Saturday morning after losing a long battle against brain cancer.

Around 500 mourners lined the narrow, cobbled streets of Pedrena as Ballesteros’s ashes were carried in a 10-minute procession from his house overlooking the Bay of Biscay down into the small Cantabrian village.

Seve Ballesteros Funeral

The column was headed by a lone piper and Ballesteros’s children Javier, Miguel and Carmen carrying the brown urn under cloudy, grey skies.

Members of the local rowing club provided a guard of honour with raised oars—his father was a rower and trainer at the club which carries his name—and they passed houses which had Spain flags hanging from balconies embossed with black ribbons.

Children of the Seve Ballesteros Foundation carried three irons aloft to signify the club with which he started practising as a child.

“As a sportsman he continued to change a sport that had only been accessible to wealthy people,” said Seve’s cousin and manager Ivan Ballesteros during the televised service.

“He was a boy from a village in the north of Spain who revolutionised golf across five continents.

“From humble beginnings he showed how a kid with talent, determination, fighting spirit and personality could realise his dreams. He was the best and he won the hearts of the people,” added Ivan.

Four former Ryder Cup captains—Nick Faldo, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance and Colin Montgomerie—and next year’s skipper Jose Maria Olazabal were present along with 1991 U.S. Masters winner Ian Woosnam.

“I think for European golf he got our tour to what it is today and he put Europe on the map,” Woosnam told Reuters television.

“The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest events in the world now and that’s because of Seve.”

Along with Spain’s secretary of state for sport Albert Soler, former cyclist Miguel Indurain and former Spain striker Emilio Butragueno was golf’s world number one Lee Westwood and his Ryder Cup team mate Miguel Angel Jimenez.

“It is a loss for Spanish sport and, anyway, even if he is no longer with us he will be everywhere (in spirit), in every corner,” Spaniard Jimenez told Reuters. “Every time we go to a golf course we will always see him there.”

The procession passed wreaths of flowers at the gates of Ballesteros’s house and more at the entrance to the church where messages from the Spanish Royal family and government could be seen.

The parish church of San Pedro, which can hold around 300, was crammed with mourners while Spanish state television’s coverage was shown on large screens in a square in the village.

Many of Pedrena’s 1,500 inhabitants turned out to watch and a large number of outsiders came to pay their last respects, passing a banner on the approach road to the village which read “Thank You, Seve”.

Local resident Pedro told Reuters: “He (Seve) was a gentleman I knew for my whole life, I met him when he was a child and I would like to attend (the funeral). I had a friendship with his parents and him.”

After the service the family returned to Ballesteros’s house for a private ceremony where his ashes were to be laid alongside a Magnolia tree that Seve had planted in the garden.

A winner of three British Opens and two U.S. Masters titles, the swashbuckling Spaniard gave golf a much-needed lift in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Along with Briton Tony Jacklin he was also chiefly responsible for reviving Europe’s fortunes in the Ryder Cup team competition.

The flamboyant and charismatic Spaniard claimed 87 worldwide wins, including 50 on the European Tour, and captained his side to Ryder Cup victory at Valderrama in Spain in 1997.

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