As Arnold Palmer’s passing last September was being marked at Bay Hill on the eve of his annual invitational event on the PGA Tour, another golfing legend was being honoured yesterday on the other side of the Atlantic. In the most fitting way possible, too, after the European Tour’s prized Player of the Year Award was renamed The Seve Ballesteros Award.
The move comes just under six years after the Spaniard passed away at the age of 54 and will provide a perfect legacy of the player who was at the forefront as European golfers first started to make their mark in the US, as well, of course, as playing such a pivotal role in the Ryder Cup landscape changing forever.
Ballesteros would certainly have approved of its first recipient, having been claimed by Henrik Stenson, who was an overwhelming winner in the 2016 vote by his fellow professionals after becoming Open champion in sensational style at Royal Troon, as well as winning the Race to Dubai for a second time in four seasons.
“Having won the Players’ Player of the Year award once before I know how special this award is,” said the Swede, who, like Ballesteros, plays the game with a smile and, similarly, goes out of his way to provide entertainment, both on the course and in media centres. “I am truly honoured to be the first player to receive it after it has been renamed The Seve Ballesteros Award. Seve was one of my idols and an icon of the game, which makes it that much more special to receive this from my peers.”
The decision to rename the award in honour of Ballesteros was made by European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley at a gathering at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, the venue where Ballesteros won his 50th, and last, European Tour title in the 1995 Open de España. It is doubly appropriate as it also comes in the year when Ballesteros would have celebrated his 60th birthday – on Masters Sunday, 9 April.
“No golfer did more to popularise the game in Europe than Seve Ballesteros and it is a great privilege to be able to ensure that his name will live on, on the European Tour, with this award,” said Pelley. “He was one of the most talented and exciting golfers ever to play our great sport and above all he was a players’ player, which is what makes this award even more appropriate. It is also fitting that the inaugural award goes to Henrik Stenson following his win in last year’s Open – the major championship won three times by Seve himself – and in a thrilling manner at Royal Troon that was reminiscent of the great man at his best.”
Javier Ballesteros, Seve’s eldest child and a professional himseld on the Alps Tour, will present the award to Stenson during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in May. “It is a huge tribute to our father which will continue to keep his legacy alive,” said Ballesteros jnr. “We are thrilled with the idea that the award voted for by the players themselves will be the one that lives on into the future and bears his name. Our father grew up and developed as a player on the European Tour and I’m sure he would be thrilled and very proud of such a recognition.”
The Seve Ballesteros Awardhas the names of all the European Tour members who have won majors inscribed around a central image of his famous fist-pumping celebrations on the 18th green at St Andrews after his Open win there in 1984. Around that is a quote from the European Tour’s founding father John Jacobs, who sadly passed away in January. It simply says: “Seve’s supreme talent, flair and passion for golf inspired millions around the world.”