‘Seve was a different class - a legend’

Seve Ballesteros
Seve Ballesteros
Scott Gregory. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Gregory: None of the pros care I won British Amateur

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Steve Richardson has fondly recalled the time he lost a friendly wager with a golfing legend after the recent tragic death of Seve Ballesteros.

The Spaniard was just 54 when he died last week and his loss has been felt across the golfing spectrum after his charisma and talent propelled the sport into the public perception.

Lee-on-the-Solent star Richardson was a team-mate of Ballesteros for the European team at the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island.

And he paid a rich tribute to a golfer who won five major titles, carried the flag for European golf across three decades and inspired a new generation to swing a club.

But it’s the friendly and genial rogue Richardson recalls meeting for the first time during a regular practice session that many of the public never saw.

Richardson said: ‘Seve was a legend – the guy was awesome. He is a huge loss to golf.

‘I remember in 1990 before I even knew him, I was practising some bunker shots at the Italian Open.

‘He wandered over and introduced himself to me and said “I’m Seve” and I thought “Well, yeah obviously!”

‘I certainly knew who he was. He asked me if I wanted to play for some beers out of the bunker so we played each shot for a beer on who could get the closest. I fancied myself as a good bunker player but I was 10 beers down to him after 10 bunker shots – I never got one shot inside his.

‘At the end he just smiled and said “I’ll see you in the bar later, Steve” but he never got around to collecting them off me because he was such a nice guy.’

For a period at the start of that decade, Richardson was the new kid on the block on the European Tour with Ballesteros the box office star.

But it didn’t stop the Spaniard from welcoming the rookie to the fold.

Richardson said: ‘When I was growing up, he was the best player in the world for about 10 years.

‘He was a good guy off the course but on the course, he was a real competitor. He didn’t give you an inch.

‘He was just so flamboyant. He would hit it miles and end up in trees and all sorts but would then come up with these wonder shots.

‘His short game was unbelievable. Even these days, a lot of the modern coaches are using the bunker techniques Seve used to do naturally.

‘He was so well regarded by everyone and always had a friendly word for you – he was just different class.’

Richardson’s form propelled him into Europe’s Ryder Cup side in 1991 where Ballesteros reigned supreme only for Bernhard Langer’s missed putt on the final green to hand victory to the Americans.

Richardson said: ‘He was fantastic in that 1991 Ryder Cup. He took four and a half points out of five.

‘It was incredible – he was almost invincible and the Americans knew it.

‘I was lucky enough to play with him in the first two rounds of the PGA at Wentworth back in 1991. I used to get drawn with him quite a bit for some reason.

‘I partnered him for the first two rounds and I think I was a shot ahead but I had a bad round in the third and he went on to win it.

‘He had this amazing aura about him. Jack Nicklaus was in that category, too.

‘When I was playing against him, I found myself watching him rather than concentrating on my own game. In the end I had to look away when he was playing his shots.

‘You end up being a fan who gets the chance to watch him up close but as a professional you’re supposed to concentrate on your own game!

‘He was part of a golden generation for European golf and he showed them how to win majors.

‘He’ll be missed by everyone but he played a huge role in making golf popular to the masses and that will never be forgotten.’