Players wait in hope for their 'father figure' to make his return

An appearance by Seve Ballesteros at the event named in his honour would dwarf anything that happens on the course, writes James Corrigan
Click to follow
The Independent Online

With respect to the teams of Continental Europe and Great Britain who will contest their Ryder Cup rehearsal here over the next four days, there is only one winning smile anybody and everybody within the game is desperate to see here at the prize-giving on Sunday evening. And his unmistakable figure just happens to grace the trophy.

A plane is on stand-by near his home in Pedrena should Severiano Ballesteros feel well enough to travel to Paris. The 52-year-old has recently undergone more radiotherapy treatment for the brain cancer he was struck down with last year. Ballesteros has yet to leave Spain, or appear at any other golf events, since the tumour was diagnosed 11 months ago and will take doctor's advice before making the trip.

The mood here, however, is one of cautious but bubbling optimism, with the Great Britain and Ireland captain, Paul McGinley, calling the chances, "75-25". And even if fatigue does stop the Spaniard putting in an appearance he has already made a mark on the latest renewal of a match first played under his name in 2000. Understandably there has been some bitterness that after the toughest year of his life, the Seve Trophy has been renamed "The Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros". But all that was forgotten on Tuesday night in the Saint-Nom-La-Bretèche clubhouse.

It was here that McGinley read out an e-mail sent by Ballesteros. "It was quite an emotional letter and there was a lot of thought that went into it," he said. "A lot of points he made were not just about golf, but about life and the position we hold in life – how lucky we are to be who we are and doing what we are doing.

"If you can bring his spirit into the team I think that's all I want to add to the week. Inspiration is the word. He's a special person and has done a huge amount for the European Tour as everybody knows. He wants to leave a legacy and the Seve Trophy is something that he really believes in. I spoke to him twice last week and I know he will do everything he can to be here."

Thomas Bjorn, the captain of Continental Europe concurred. "I don't think we can say enough about him as for what he's done for all of us as players and for the Tour," said the Dane. "If there is a father figure of this Tour, certainly from a player's perspective, it lands on his shoulders. And when it comes to team events, there's not a person that epitomises them more than Seve Ballesteros. That's why it's important this week for Paul and I to pass this on to the younger generation that might not have seen him at his absolute best."

Certainly there are enough young players here who would love the education , although one in particular is hoping Ballesteros arrives. "It would mean an awful lot to all of us, to the players, the fans, the press, everybody," said Rory McIlroy. "I've never met him before and this would be a special time and a special event to do so. His letter was really moving. There was a bit at the end where he said, 'It seemed like only yesterday when I came on Tour. It went so quickly. So make the most of it. Enjoy your time out here, because it doesn't last for long.' That's the part I most remember."