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    Golf: Seve’s Ryder at Valderrama 97, “the strength of a monster” | Sports | The USA Print


    “The force of a monster”, Miguel Ángel Jiménez releases without hesitation when he travels back in time. Campo de Valderrama, in San Roque (Cádiz), from September 26 to 28, 1997, 25 years ago this Wednesday. The “monster” is Severiano Ballesteros, the Cantabrian genius who achieved what seemed impossible, that the Ryder Cup left the United States and the British Isles for the first time and landed in a venue in continental Europe. And not only that, but Europe dethroned a United States team in which Tiger Woods made his debut, winner that past April, at the age of 21, of the Augusta Masters, his first major and the beginning of the revolution.

    “Severiano’s courage was impressive,” rewinds Jiménez, then vice-captain under the orders of the best Spanish golfer in history. “Seeing his motivation helped me a lot to develop as a player. He did everything so that the Ryder arrived in Spain. Since continental Europe started playing the Ryder [en 1979], Europe changed, and one of the engines was the European players, especially Severiano, the soul of the European circuit and of the Ryder. You have to keep Seve on a pedestal forever”, says El Pisha. The documentary Seve’s Ryder premieres this Thursday at 10:00 p.m. on Movistar’s #Vamos.

    Seve allied himself with Emma Villacieros, president of the Spanish federation, so that the Ryder arrived in Spain as a reward for the importance of national players in the competition. He achieved the designation, but he wanted the tournament to take place in the Sancti Petri field, in Chiclana de la Frontera, and not in Valderrama, owned by Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, as it finally happened. A museum for a unique competition. Under Seve’s captaincy, Europe enlisted José María Olazabal, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Jesper Parnevik, Per-Ulrik Johansson, Lee Westwood, Thomas Björn, Constantino Rocca and Ignacio Garrido. Miguel Ángel Martín had crashed at the last minute, discarding Seve considering that he had not recovered from an injury despite the fact that he had achieved classification. A fire before the great battle on the field. Tom Kite directed Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Justin Leonard, Tom Lehman, David Love III, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Jeff Maggert, Mark O’Meara, Scott Hoch, Brad Faxon and Lee Janzen in the United States.

    Ballesteros multiplied in the field, raised to the buggy, on top of each of his boys. He was in everything. From hiring Los del Río for the gala dinner to getting angry because the American golfers ordered pizzas and hamburgers instead of the hotel food. Miguel Ángel Jiménez also remembers a very special anecdote that reflected Seve’s fever for the competition: “At half past three in the morning on Thursday they telephoned my room at the Sotogrande hotel. It’s Seve: ‘Miguel, come on, we have to organize the couples!’ ‘But Seve, let’s get some sleep, it’s four in the morning…’, I say. We had a whole day ahead of us. ‘Things done are done. And bring the tobacco ‘, he answered me. So I put on a bathrobe and off I went. We were in separate houses. Imagining that his wife, Carmen Botín, would be sleeping, I took a sweetie off the ground and threw it at her window. The guards looked at me strangely, pointing their flashlights at me… I don’t know what they imagined. Seve was so excited that he couldn’t sleep. He needed to talk to someone.”

    Ignacio Garrido, Seve Ballesteros, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Chema Olazabal, with the 1997 trophy.
    Ignacio Garrido, Seve Ballesteros, Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Chema Olazabal, with the 1997 trophy.Getty

    The United States arrived with Tiger, a massive puncher. “But we had an ace up our sleeve”, remembers Olazabal, “preparing the field as we wanted. And we put an area of rough in the middle of the street so that everyone hit the second shot from the same area. You had to do whatever. The Ryder are like the Olympics.” “I lived it as if it were the last moment of my life”, recalls Garrido. Among the fans, Michael Jordan and George W. Bush, and 1,300 journalists and television personnel who witnessed a European victory by 14.5 to 13.5.

    That victory launched an era of clear European dominance over the United States. Continental players have lifted the cup in eight of the last 12 editions, and never in this period have they lost at home: all four defeats have been on North American soil. Instead, they prevailed in the unforgettable event in Medinah in 2012, with Chema Olazabal as captain and in memory of Seve. In 2018, Europe swept their rival 17.5-10.5 in Paris, and in 2023 the tournament will be held in Rome. That seed from Valderrama was also the one that flourished years later in a boy from Barrika named Jon Rahm. A friend of his father’s went to the ’97 Ryder and on the way back convinced the gang to try golf. This is how this sport entered the Rahm family. From Seve to Jon, an umbilical cord.

    Seve’s Ryder is broadcast this Thursday at 10:00 p.m. on Movistar’s #Vamos.

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