Every year on the last Monday in May, the United States commemorates soldiers who have fallen in military service. This ritual of remembrance brings families together to embrace the freedom we have and meditate on the price it comes with. Golf has its own tribute to people that have had an impact on the game and made it as popular throughout the world as it is today.
The Memorial Tournament is Jack Nicklaus’ vision that celebrates his passion for tournament golf and an opportunity to give back to a hometown community that has given him so much. Every year the tournament is themed around a person, living or dead, who has contributed to the game of golf. This was Nicklaus’ idea as a way to perpetuate the achievements of the game’s greatest individuals. In 2010, the person honored was Spain’s Seve Ballesteros. It was almost a year later, at age 54, that Ballesteros would pass away from complications of brain cancer.
Ballesteros was an iconic figure in European golf, doing what Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer did for the sport in America. Ballesteros got his humble start at the game hitting rocks with a homemade 3-iron. One could argue that this beginning was the reason behind his legendary short game. For Ballesteros there was no such thing as “trouble,” winning a record 50 European tour victories including five major championships. Moreover, Ballesteros helped put European golf on the map, making the Ryder Cup one of the biggest events in the world of sport.
Lee Trevino attributes Ballesteros’ short game success to the amount of spin (or lack thereof) he could impart on the golf ball. Trevino compliments his military-like action of keeping his lower body still, therefore allowing his upper body and arms to create more speed. The average person uses more leg action, which steals essential upper-body speed to create spin. Trevino might be right when it comes to discovering the secret behind Ballesteros’ short game prowess, however one should use caution if trying to mimic his motion. Too much of one ingredient might ruin the recipe.
Ballesteros will always be remembered for his magical short game and his imagination in hitting creative shots. Today’s young golfers can learn a lot if they play the game more like Ballesteros and less robotic. Golf is a hard game and to be successful you should play the game with a marriage of feel and mechanics. The next time you are practicing your short game, take out a 3-iron (if you still have one) and try to hit some shots in memory of Ballesteros. You will have a sense of what a magician he was.
Darren deMaille is a PGA Professional and the Head Golf Professional at The Bridge in Bridgehampton. For questions, email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
This PGA Tour’s 2011 Memorial Tournament will be held at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin Ohio from May 30 through June 5.