Memories of Seve Ballesteros at Royal Lytham & St Annes | Golf | CBC Sports

GolfMemories of Seve Ballesteros at Royal Lytham & St Annes

Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 | 11:00 AM

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Seve Ballesteros tees off at No. 18 in the 1988 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. (David Cannon/Getty Images) Seve Ballesteros tees off at No. 18 in the 1988 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. (David Cannon/Getty Images)

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I always felt immensely privileged to be standing just a few feet away from the late Seve Ballesteros as he played that magical chip shot on the 72nd hole to seal his triumph over Nick Price in The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1988.

This simply could not continue. A decision would have to be made. Someone had to take responsibility and call off The Open.
 
The huge white media tent in which I was based was frequently buffeted by strong winds, so much so that from time the entire structure visibly moved before the powerful gust died down. The tarpaulin roof was leaking in several places forcing a number of international journalists to move their positions in order to keep their equipment dry.
 
We were the lucky ones.
 
It was the summer of 1988. Summer in the UK is a relative term. It is no guarantee of long, warm days bathed in endless sunshine. Or any sunshine at all, for that matter -- sometimes for days on end. The unpredictability of the British weather is a staple topic of conversation and cause enough for millions to moan and curse and book last-minute breaks to Spain, Greece or Florida.
 
Outside, the rain was unrelenting. The third round of the 117th Open Championship was underway beneath leaden skies -- the early starters taking the brunt of the brutal conditions. Spectators who would normally be crawling all over the course in their thousands for the best vantage points were few and far between.

The hospitality areas were empty and the temporary public grandstands encircling several greens virtually deserted.
 
The course itself could only take so much moisture. Despite the best efforts of the ground staff, the rain was coming down faster than the small army of volunteers could mop it up. Greens and sand traps were becoming waterlogged, ultimately leaving the organizers no choice but to call a halt.
 
Moving day at The Open was itself moved. The original plan to play 36 holes on the Sunday was scuppered when the continuing clean-up operation forced another delay. Realization slowly dawned among media, players and fans alike that we would all be back on Monday for the climax of the tournament.
 
It was worth the wait. The leading man saved his best for last. As British hopes faded with the demise of Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros rose to the occasion.

Nearly a decade after his first Open victory at Royal Lytham, the popular Spaniard returned in glory -- shooting a brilliant final round of five under-par 65 to win by two strokes.
 
It would be Seve's fifth and final major. Nobody knew it at the time, of course. But I always felt immensely privileged to be standing just a few feet away from the maestro as he played that magical chip shot on the 72nd hole to seal his triumph over Nick Price. In an era when golf's world rankings were still a novelty, Ballesteros had once again conquered the elements and the best in the world.
 
Royal Lytham, which plays host to The Open this week for the 11th time, has changed little in more than a century. A traditional links course, it is remarkable for two reasons. Firstly, it is not actually adjacent to the modern coastline. A set of railway tracks and several residential streets separate the course from the Promenade and the beach itself.
 
It is also the only Open Championship venue which begins with a par 3. The hole features no less than nine bunkers, seven of which surround the green. Ian Woosnam managed to avoid them all and stick his tee shot to within a foot back in 2001, only to discover an illegal 15th club in his bag. Neither the Welshman nor his errant caddie ever recovered from the miscalculation, which incurred a two-stroke penalty.
 
Accuracy rather than power is the key to success at Lytham. With more than 200 pot bunkers and punishing fescue lying in wait, course management is critical.

Taking an overaggressive approach is all the invitation the course needs to bite back. Patience and planning may not be spectacular. But on this course, they will pay dividends.
 
Then, of course, there's the weather. Even the world's best ball strikers can be blown off line when the elements conspire against them. The forecast for the practice days is not at all encouraging. But at least the indications are it will dry up for the weekend.
 
For five days in 1988 at Royal Lytham & St Annes, I was cold, wet and uncomfortable. It was one of the most enjoyable and memorable assignments of my career.

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