Paul Lawrie: Seve, my hero

He was so important for golf in Europe – he was our talisman

The 1999 Open champion played in the third round of the Spanish Open at El Prat in Barcelona yesterday. He then offered The Independent on Sunday this appreciation of Seve Ballesteros:

"It was very quiet on the golf course. All the flags were at half- mast. It's a very sad day for Spain and everyone in golf. I didn't find out until I got to the golf course this morning and obviously it was a shock for everyone. I had been in touch with Seve and his nephew Ivan regularly over the last few years and we were all just hoping for the best. I saw many of the Spanish players, including Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez, and naturally theywere in bits.

"By amazing coincidence, I was playing with Seve Benson, the young English player who was named after his father's hero. We did not talk much. It was all extremely sad but you have to get on with the job. It was a wonderful tribute with the minute's silence. We had just teed off on the 18th hole so we stopped there. Miguel Angel was in the group ahead and had just finished. Afterwards I hit a nice second shot and managed to finish on a birdie.

"Seve was a legend. He is the reason why so many of us on tour are doing what we are doing, having the chance to play in all these elite tournaments, playing the game we love for a living. He was so important for the development of golf in Europe and the European tour. He was our talisman.

"The first time I played with Seve was in my first year on tour in 1992, here at the Spanish Open in the third round.

"I didn't sleep a wink the night before. I was wetting myself before I got to the first tee but, of course, he was charming. He was my idol and to play with him was a huge thrill.

"For people of my generation, he was the one we looked up to. I remember in particular watching him win at St Andrews in 1984 and at Lytham in '88. Great times. He won a lot of tournaments in quite a short space of time compared to the length of other golfers' careers. But he was magic. He was the best we've ever had in Europe."