The early years of the Ryder Cup were more lopsided than a peg-legged wino.
From the first exhibition in 1927 through 1977, the Americans owned a record of 19-3 over the poor sods from Great Britain & Ireland, aka the United Kingdom (who said your history classes wouldn’t come in handy….finally!).
Tired of being beaten more than Nicky Santoro in Casino, the lads from across the pond expanded their team, starting in 1979, to include players from Continental Europe.
This move was aimed at one man, and one man only, Severiano Ballesteros Sota, or simply, Seve.
Seve’s inclusion to the proceedings brought a sea change to the event:
- Americans still won handily in 1979 and 1981
- Seve missed the 1981 event after a dispute with the European Tour leaving him short of team qualification
- The tide began turning in 1983; Europe lost by a point, only after one of the most clutch wedges (and truly pathetic celebrations) of all time from Lanny “All Systems Firing on Go” Watkins
- The 1983 event also featured Seve’s highlighted 3-wood out of a bunker to salvage a half against Fuzzy Zoeller
Starting in 1985, Seve would be the gasoline on the tire fire that ignited the the recent European Ryder Cup dominance:
- Teamed with countryman Jose Maria Olazabal from 1987 - 1993 in all pairs matches
- The Spanish Armada had a team record of 11-2-2 (two losses….ever!)
- Europe has won 12 of the last 20 Ryder Cups
Not only did Seve bring undying passion to the Ryder Cup (yes, we see you Ian “Crazy Eyes” Poulter!), he ushered in a magical era of European golf that remains unmatched to this day:
- Leader of the “Big 5” in 1980s European golf (Seve, Faldo, Langer, Lyle, Woosnam)
- All born within 12 months of each other, all Masters winners (among other majors)
- All five have been key to Ryder Cup rebirth (only Lyle hasn’t been a captain)
- Played a seminal role in evolution of Spanish and continental European golf
Seve’s legacy is long, complicated and, most importantly, irrefutable.
Love him or hate him, he remains an integral part of the international influence on professional golf. We’re sure he’s smiling down watching the carnival that is the Ryder Cup today!