It is well known by now that Seve Ballesteros passed away last weekend at the age of 54 from Brain Cancer. It is sad to see anyone die at such a young age and for us golfers it is especially hard when a legend of the game leaves us so young. For those of us who have followed golf for the past thirty years, we remember the excitement, passion, energy and dare I say, artistry that Seve brought to the game.
I n “Where Have the Characters Gone,” I wrote that that in today’s world of high profile, professional golf, there are very few characters; guys like Seve with personality and showmanship. Even if another player was to come along who had the same talent, passion, or excitement for the game, you have to wonder, would they be as expressive? Would they show the same level of emotion? Would they play with the same flair, charisma, or excitement? Will professional golf see a player like Seve again?
I do not purport to be an expert on the life or game of Seve Ballesteros. However, one memory that does come to mind is how he learned to be such a great feel player. I do not remember who asked the question or exactly how Seve answered it, but I will try and paraphrase.
The reporter asked Seve how he became such a great feel player. Seve said that when he was a young man in Spain, he would go to the beach and practice. He would hit balls from the sand without any shoes on to get the feel. He said that by doing this drill it taught him to have balance, establish good footing and stay centered. In golf, this is called playing within yourself. It means finding the game that works for you and your body, and not being a golf robot.
Golf robots don’t have feel, they don’t have passion, and they don’t show excitement on the course. My opinion is that many of today’s PGA players are too robotic. It not only affects their games, but it also drains the excitement from the game, for both the players and the spectators and fans.
Professional golf needs more feel-players like Seve Ballesteros. I also put Sam Snead and Bubba Watson in this category of great characters. The story has been told many times how Sam Snead learned to hit golf balls with a switch from a tree in the hills of West Virginia. Bubba Watson learned to work the ball by hitting plastic golf balls around his parents’ house as the course.
Maybe in the end, one of the great lessons that Seve leaves us, and his legacy, is the concept of playing the game of golf with feel and passion. Wouldn’t we all be so blessed to have the ability to merge those two traits into our own golf games. If we could, I think we would play much better golf and probably enjoy the game even more as well.
Do you think feel and passion are traits that professional golfers should strive for? Are today’s players too robotic?