The late Seve Ballesteros is renowned for putting a ball into a car park at the 1979 British Open, yet still making a birdie on the hole and winning the tournament.
Gar Hamilton, who was inducted into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame last week along with renowned junior mentor Sam Young, says he recalls an incident that could have been a preview of that infamous British Open moment when he played in New Zealand with Ballesteros, who was just crashing onto the scene in the late 1970s.
Ballesteros died last Saturday after a battle with a brain tumor. He was 54.
Hamilton, who has spent the past 22 years as head pro at the Mississaugua Golf and Country Club near Toronto, recalled some happier moments with the charismatic Spaniard in my latest golf column for Sun Media. You can read that below:
Thoughts of Seve Ballesteros filtered into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame induction dinner last Wednesday as news of the Spanish star’s deterioration in health began making the rounds.
The Ontario ceremony seemed more dedicated to the grassroots guys as renowned junior mentor Sam Young of the Shelburne Golf and Country Club and Gar Hamilton, the head pro at Mississaugua Golf and Country Club for the past 22 years, were inducted.
Despite that grassroots flavour, Hamilton, also renowned for his playing ability, made a brief, solemn note about the international star in his speech.
After a battle with brain cancer, golf lost one of its most charismatic figures on Saturday at the age of 54. Hamilton remembered happier times back in the ‘70s when Ballesteros was winning event after event as he crashed on to golf’s main stage.
Besides the numerous provincial and national titles he won, Hamilton also played on the PGA Tour in 1976-77 and part of 1980. It was in New Zealand, however, that he got a close-up view of the new international star, who was burning it up in the late ‘70s.
“This young man, everybody’s talking about him like a Tiger Woods almost. He’s just like the new king of the world. He’s the next superstar,” recalled Hamilton, who was there to play the 1977 Otaga Classic and
wound up playing the final round with Ballesteros.
“He treated me well and was kidding with me. I hit some drives up to him and past him and he was going, `Hey, what are you doing Gar?’ and I’m going, `Hey, what are you talking about Seve?’” added Hamilton.
The swashbuckling Spanish star is infamous for hitting a shot into a parking lot during the 1979 British Open and still managing to make a birdie and win the tournament.
As if it was a preview, Hamilton got a look at how unpredictable Ballesteros could be, yet how his creativity could bail him out¸ on the final hole at the Otaga.
“In typical Seve fashion, he just completely hit it sideways off the last tee and the fairway was wider than, as they would say, a cricket pitch. It was one of those old time holes. It was only about 370-380 (yards),” said Hamilton.
“I’ll never forget this. He drives it 100 (yards) to the right in these trees. I couldn’t hit it there if I aimed it there,” said Hamilton. “He has to manufacture some long, low shot out of there. He hits it short of the front. The green is flat, about 100 yards long.”
If that shot wasn’t enough, yet another sweet Seve moment was to follow.
“This is when you knew this guy was super-special,” said Hamilton.
“Anybody in the world would have pitched it with a nine iron or a pitching wedge, or even an eight iron, run it all the way to the back edge. The pin was probably 12 feet from the back and (out of bounds) one inch over,” he added.
“This guy takes a sand iron from five yards off the front or something and he nips it back there, about two feet and knocks it in and wins the tournament,” he said, marveling at the overall talent, despite the unpredictability of the five-time major champ..
“He hit just phenomenal, high, great long irons into holes. As I say, he was very liable to hit it 50 yards to the right and then hit some towering two iron in there about 12 feet or something. He hit it like the kids do today, with no (advanced technology) equipment,” said Hamilton.
THE SHORT GAME: Mike Weir’s win at the Masters is still paying dividends eight years later. Weir gets a direct ticket to U.S. Open sectional qualifying and will play Monday, June 6, in Dublin, Ohio. He will also try qualifying for the British Open on Monday, May 23, in Texas.