Ballesteros crucial in turning Ryder Cup tide toward Europe: Jacklin

seve ballesteros, tony jacklin
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Tony Jacklin's team narrowly lost the 1983 Ryder Cup in his first year as captain, but won in 1985 (victory celebration shown here) and 1987 and tied in 1989 in large part to Seve Ballesteros.
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PA Sport

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With the funeral of Seve Ballesteros taking place Wednesday, Tony Jacklin has recalled the seven words without which the Spanish maestro might never have become such a hero of British golf fans.

Jacklin had taken on the European Ryder Cup captaincy in 1983 not knowing whether Europe's star player -- and the reigning Masters champion at the time -- would agree to play against the Americans.

But at the end of a meeting in which when Ballesteros, not selected two years earlier in a dispute over appearance money, had given full vent to his feelings, he gave his answer.

"Okay, I will try to help you," said the man who then inspired Europe to a run of success that has now seen them lift the Ryder Cup in nine of the last 13 matches.

Jacklin admits he didn’t know Ballesteros that well before they met at Birkdale that summer 28 years ago, but he certainly knew his importance.

"The Ryder Cup was a turning point for a lot of things, and the significance of his involvement was unbelievable," he said. "I find people get amnesia about things, especially people around the European Tour, but he was actually banned from it in 1981.

"I don't think they ever really gave him the support that his talent required. It was an incredible opportunity for the tour -- he was Tiger Woods before Tiger Woods. He had it all,” Jacklin explained. "Like everything with a talent like that, it's not all plain sailing when you are trying to work with an organization and he was angry.

"It was (captain) John Jacobs, (European Tour Chairman) Neil Coles and Bernhard Langer who were on the committee at the time, but in fairness to Langer I think he was only co-opted to give it player credibility,” Jacklain said. "So in their wisdom they banned him and I was in a similar situation. I was left out as well from the 1981 team.

"It wasn't until the April of '83 (six months before the match in Florida) that they came to me about becoming captain,” he added. "I was able to say I was only going to do it if we levelled the playing field and that meant Concorde, taking caddies and having the best of everything, as our opposition had. Once I accepted, my first question to Lord Derby (President of the British PGA at the time) was 'What about Seve?' and he told me that now I had accepted he was my problem."

Jacklin knew the impact that the mercurial Spaniard could have on his European side, which went on to lose by just a point in Florida.

"I knew I couldn't do it without him, so we met. He felt slighted and hurt by what had happened - and boy was he angry," he said. "He spent the first half of the meeting telling me what a shower they were, so of course I agreed with all that, but then I told him that they'd given me all the power to do whatever I thought was required.

"I said, 'I can't do it without you and it's as simple as that -- as far as I'm concerned you're the best player in the world,'” Jacklin recalled. "I think he had the same opinion as me that the Americans weren't any better than us given a level playing field, so he agreed to come on board and by god did he help.

"He was a one-man army and he was just as good off the course as he was on it. He was about the only one that I ran anything by in terms of pairings.

"I've only met two people in my life with such charisma,” said Jacklin. “One was Arnold (Palmer) and the other was Seve."