AS FAR as fitting gestures go, the decision by organisers of the Dubai Desert Classic to ask Javier Ballesteros, Seve’s son, to represent his father in the Champions’ Challenge marking the event’s silver anniversary was “bueno” 25 times over.
It was the right thing, too, that the 23-year-old law degree student in Madrid was paired with Jose Maria Olazabal, Seve’s regular Ryder Cup partner, and another Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez, for the poignant occasion.
“It was really emotional, especially on that first tee,” admitted Olazábal afterwards. “When I saw Javier, I saw Seve. He brought back a lot of memories. I could see a lot of Seve on the golf course. He has the same mannerisms as his father, particularly when he is standing over the ball. His short game is very nice. His chipping and putting are very good – like his father. I had never played with him before, but I have known him since he was a little kid. When he first came here to Dubai, he was probably four or five years old. It is great that they invited him here.”
Wearing Seve’s iconic logo on his shirt and golf bag, Ballesteros signed for a two-over 74 as he was followed round by his mother, Carmen, and sister, who bears the same name.
“Being able to play here for my dad, I tried to play my best and make him proud,” he said. “I think what my dad did was fantastic, really incredible. I just try to be myself and play golf.”
He did a damn good job at times yesterday of being his famous father, who won the Dubai event in 1992. “Do I play like my dad? Kind of, but not as [well] as him,” said Ballesteros. “I went everywhere with the driver today, like him, but not as good. I hit five, maybe six of the 13 fairways so 74 was a good score.”
Only time will tell whether or not Javier follows in Seve’s spikemarks by turning professional, but Olazabal believes the scratch player has work to do before he can even contemplate such a move.
“He really needs to improve,” said the 2012 Ryder Cup captain. “He was very erratic off the tee.
“He is concentrating on his studies at the moment. He has another year and a half, two years at least there. We will see after that.”