Thoughts of Seve Ballesteros filtered into the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame induction dinner last Wednesday as news of the Spanish star's deterioration in health began making the rounds.
Sam Young of the Shelburne Golf and Country Club and Gar Hamilton, the head pro at Mississauga Golf and Country Club for the past 22 years, were inducted, with Hamilton making a brief, solemn note about the international star in his speech.
After a battle with brain cancer, golf lost one of its most charismatic figures on Saturday at the age of 54. Hamilton remembered happier times back in the '70s when Ballesteros was winning event after event.
Hamilton, who won numerous provincial and national titles, played on the PGA Tour in 1976-77 and part of 1980. It was in New Zealand in 1977 that he got a close-up view of the new international star.
"This young man, everybody's talking about him like a Tiger Woods almost. He's just like the new king of the world. He's the next superstar," recalled Hamilton, who was in New Zealand to play the Otaga Classic and wound up grouped with Ballesteros in the final round.
"He treated me well and was kidding with me. I hit some drives up to him and past him and he was going, 'Hey, what are you doing Gar?' and I'm going, 'Hey, what are you talking about Seve?'" said Hamilton.
The swashbuckling Spanish star is infamous for hitting a shot into a parking lot during the 1979 British Open and still managing to make a birdie and win the tournament.
Hamilton got a preview of what the Spaniard could do on the final hole at the Otaga.
"In typical Seve fashion, he just completely hit it sideways off the last tee ... I'll never forget this, he drives it 100 (yards) to the right in these trees. I couldn't hit it there if I aimed it there," said Hamilton. "He has to manufacture some long, low shot out of there. He hits it short of the front. The green is flat, about 100 yards long."
If that shot wasn't enough, another sweet Seve moment was to follow.
"This is when you knew this guy was super special," said Hamilton. "Anybody in the world would have pitched it with a 9-iron or a pitching wedge, or even an 8-iron, run it all the way to the back edge," he added. "This guy takes a sand iron from five yards off the front or something and he nips it back there, about two feet and knocks it in and wins the tournament," he said, marvelling at the talent of the five-time major champ.
"He hit just phenomenal, high, great long irons in to holes. As I say, he was very liable to hit it 50 yards to the right and then hit some towering 2-iron in there about 12 feet or something. He hit it like the kids do today, with no (advanced technology) equipment," said Hamilton.
Mike Weir's win at the Masters is still paying dividends eight years later. Weir gets a direct ticket to U.S. Open sectional qualifying and will play Monday, June 6, in Dublin, Ohio. He will also try to qualify for the British Open on Monday, May 23, in Texas.