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Seve Ballesteros - The Peoples Champion

Seve Ballesteros’s former caddie Billy Foster recalled the Spaniards’s magical shot-making skills on Saturday and hailed him as the “People’s Champion”.

Foster worked with Ballesteros, who has died at the age of 54 after a long battle with cancer, for a five-year spell at the start of the 1990s when he was still thrilling galleries around the world with his dashing golf.

“He was the People’s Champion, a warrior on the golf course,” Foster, who now carries the bag of world number one Lee Westwood, told Reuters in an interview.

“The passion and desire he showed will never be matched by any other sportsman, never mind any other golfer. I live in a nice house because of him and, because of everything else I’ve got, I hold him dear to my heart.

“He was the ultimate shotmaker. You can go on about the 87 titles and the five major championships he won but he’ll always be remembered as the man who played shots no one else dared dream of.”

Foster, who has also caddied briefly for Tiger Woods and is widely regarded as one of the best in the business, said it was a pity Ballesteros was too ill to attend the Champions Challenge at the 150th anniversary British Open last year.

“It is never easy when a true gentleman and a legend of the game passes away but in some ways it’s a bit of a relief he doesn’t have to suffer any more,” said the Yorkshireman.

“The last couple of years have been very hard for him and I just feel sad he never got to St Andrews last year and received the acclaim from the public that held him close to their hearts.”

Foster said one 150-yard stroke stood out in his mind above all others from the time he spent with Ballesteros.

“There are so many good memories of him but I especially remember a wedge he played in Switzerland once from behind an eight-foot wall,” said the caddie.

“No matter how hard I tried to dissuade him, I was saying, ‘I know you’re Seve Ballesteros but you’re not a magician, just chip it out sideways’, he said, ‘Don’t worry Billy—this shot is no problem.

“He waved me away and proceeded to hit a wedge with half a backswing over the wall, through some trees where there was a tiny gap the size of a dinner plate, over a swimming pool, over 60-foot trees, and got it five yards short of the green and then chipped in,” added Foster.

“Seve just laughed and I got down on my hands and knees and bowed to him.”

Ballesteros had a special fondness for the British Open, a championship he won three times, and for the U.S. Masters, a title he won twice.

Foster said it was at Augusta National that the Spaniard’s competitive juices really flowed.

“Augusta always brought out the hardest in him. Sometimes we had tough weeks there but we had great times,” he explained.

“Once, at the ninth hole, he wanted to hit a wedge and I said, ‘No, no, you can’t reach the green with that’. He listened and hit a great shot straight down the flag with a nine-iron.

“But the pin was at the front of the green and he was at the back so he was putting down a fast, two-tier marble staircase and he turned to me and shouted all sorts of abuse, called me all manner of names,” added Foster.

“He then hit a fantastic putt from 60 feet with a 15-foot break and made his par before turning to me to say, ‘Don’t worry Billy it’s not your fault—it’s my fault for listening to you’.”

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