Golf: Legal action threat to Seve: Spanish club denies offering Ballesteros 'sweetener' for Ryder Cup backing

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The Independent Online
SEVE BALLESTEROS may be threatened with legal action following his allegation that Valderrama offered him a dollars 1m 'sweetener' to support its bid to stage the Ryder Cup in 1997. Jaime Ortiz-Patino, the owner of the club, has put the matter in the hands of his lawyers.

'Quite serious allegations have been made, particularly the question of bribery of Ryder Cup officials,' James Stewart said from Valderrama yesterday. Stewart, who has helped Ortiz-Patino co-ordinate the club's campaign for the cup, added: 'We have sent all our correspondence on the matter to the Ryder Cup committee. In our view it was a business proposition.'

In Madrid on Sunday, Ballesteros revealed he received the offer in a letter from Valderrama in April last year. 'I don't like being bought,' he said.

Ballesteros broadened the issue when he added: 'One can only question if the other gentlemen on the Ryder Cup committee have received some sort of offer.' To which Brian Anderson, of the Professional Golfers' Asociation, responded yesterday: 'If he is hinting that present members of the committee have been offered inducements to back the Valderrama bid I'd expect him to withdraw immediately and make a full apology.'

Stewart said: 'The offer (to Ballesteros) was made before it was announced that the 1997 Ryder Cup would be awarded to Spain and before Seve Ballesteros was elected to the committee. It was in relation to his work in re-designing the 17th hole and his support for our candidacy. At that time he had not expressed a preference for any one course. Six months later we received a reply from his manager declining the offer. There was absolutely nothing underhand about it. We have conducted a clean and honourable campaign and we respect all the other bids.'

When Sir Ian MacLaurin, chairman of Tesco and a member of Valderrama, heard Ballesteros's allegations, he rang Ken Schofield, executive director of the Tour. 'He assured me that the exchanges between the club and Seve were in the normal course of business,' Schofield said. 'If there is anything untoward, I have asked Seve to bring these forward to us.'

Ballesteros modified the 17th at Valderrama last year at the invitation of Ortiz-Patino and Robert Trent Jones, the American who designed the course. During the Volvo Masters last November, Ballesteros wrote: 'Every time I played at Valderrama I thought the 17th hole could be remodelled and that this would be the most important improvement to such a magnificent course. Trent Jones said my expectations had a lot in common with his own and he thought it preferable for me to undertake those modifications.'

Of the seven clubs in Spain that have bid to host the biennial match between Europe and the United States, Ballesteros passionately favours Novo Sancti Petri, a public course which he designed. He appears convinced Valderrama will get the vote when the com-

mittee meets at Wentworth a week tomorrow. The date of the meeting was arranged so that Ballesteros would be present but he resigned from the committee two weeks ago. He replaced Tony Jacklin in December and attended one meeting.

Ballesteros said his resignation made it easier for the committee to make its decision. In Madrid Ballesteros claimed that Valderrama did not fulfil the criteria as a cup venue. He described the club as being 'even more elitist than Augusta National' and said the Spanish government should determine the venue.

Valderrama, situated between Gibraltar and Marbella, was bought by Ortiz-Patino, a Bolivian who made his fortune in tin, in 1985. In 1988, it hosted its first Volvo Masters and Ortiz-Patino invited comparisons to be made between his course and the tournament and Augusta National and the US Masters. Similarly, the membership is restricted to around 300 invitees although drawn from 22 countries.

Azinger recovers, page 34

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