Sport Golf

Monday 23 April 2018

Olazabal plays on in tribute

Norman Dabell in Terrassa

Tears streamed down Jose Maria Olazabal's face as he stood in silence in memory of his great friend Seve Ballesteros, who died yesterday aged 54. Behind Olazabal, flags at the El Prat course -- where the Spanish Open was being played -- flew at half-mast in tribute to a sporting icon.

After the minute's silence for the game's most charismatic figure, Olazabal sought solace from Miguel Angel Jimenez (pictured right) as he buried his head in his fellow-Spaniard's shoulder.

The klaxon had sounded at 2.45 local time, just over 12 hours after Ballesteros had passed away at his home in Pedrena, northern Spain, as a result of the brain cancer he had fought so hard to overcome.

On the course, players still involved in the third round of the Spanish Open -- the last title Ballesteros won on the European Tour -- halted play and stood with bowed heads.

Nearly everyone wore black ribbons to signify Ballesteros' passing.

Olazabal, the man with most reason to mourn as Ballesteros' triumphant Ryder Cup partner, had faced a conflict with his own feelings. He wanted to pull out of the tournament in respect of Ballesteros but also felt he had to play, just as his great friend would have wanted.

"Olly's first shot of the day was very emotional," playing partner Colin Montgomerie said. "He did well to play at all. They were like brothers."

Olazabal knew Ballesteros for more than a quarter of a century. "My first memory of Seve goes back to '83 or '84," he recalled yesterday. "I was an amateur, and he called me to play in a charity event. It was a big surprise and I was very excited.

"What impressed me most in Seve was his strength, his fighting spirit and the passion he put into everything he did.

"I saw him for the last time the Saturday after the Masters. He was not well but his head was clear. We talked about many things, so many common memories, and particularly about the Ryder Cup.

"The best tribute we can pay to Seve is to go on playing for him, although no tribute will ever do justice to everything he did for golf and to everything he gave us."

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