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Original Issue


Severiano Ballesteros padded barefoot up the stairs, looking weary. A white towel draped over his shoulder indicated his destination. Soon the shower could be heard, and then the hum of a blow drier. Downstairs in the rented house in Augusta where he was staying with his business manager, Ed Banner, friends gathered in the living room. Manuel, his 30-year-old brother, sat on the field-stone hearth beside an antique rifle, waving his arms as he talked to the president of the Spanish Golf Federation and a Miami automobile dealer whose family is from Santander, Spain, near Ballesteros' hometown of Pedreña. Manuel was excited. One round to play and Seve with a seven-stroke lead! Manuel savored the prospects for the morrow.

Soon Ballesteros emerged, refreshed and dressed in blue slacks and a bright yellow shirt that was reflected, like a buttercup, on his smooth, dark skin. He is a handsome man, not in the least boyish. With deep-set brown eyes he studied the room for a moment.

"¬¨¬®‚àö‚àèDónde està Jorge?"

"In the bedroom," someone answered, and Ballesteros went off to find his friend, Jorge Ceballos, executive director of the Spanish PGA. In a moment they returned together, laughing. Ballesteros sat down on a flowered velvet couch and was asked whether he had ever had a bigger lead before.

"Yes, once," he replied quickly. "In Spain." Clearly, he didn't wish to discuss the golf tournament.

A young woman joined a buffet line behind Ballesteros, and he immediately motioned for her to step ahead of him. She, liberated American, didn't move. He, traditional Spaniard, refused to go first. They parried and, like one of his golfing adversaries, she surrendered.

Ballesteros, mature beyond his years, is stubborn and old-fashioned. His roots are deeply set in Pedre‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±a, a fishing village of 1,500 people on the north coast of Spain on the Bay of Biscay. There his father, Baldomero, 61, has a dairy farm, and his mother, Carmen, 60, raises vegetables with as much care and tenderness as she raised her four sons—Baldomero, 33, Vicente, 28, Manuel and Seve—golfers, all of them. Soon his parents will move from the small house where Seve was born near the 2nd hole of the Real Pedre‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±a golf course to a new one he has built for them by the 8th hole. Manuel and Seve will live there, too. The British Open and Masters champion may be a millionaire, world traveler and bachelor darling of young girls, but he still lives with his parents.

When he is home, Seve often goes to the beach. Swimming is one form of exercise, aside from golf, that Seve can enjoy, for he suffers from a back condition that makes most exercise—and even sitting—almost unbearably painful. Long plane flights are torture.

"If I talk about my back, then I will think about the pain, and then I will feel it," he has said. "So I don't talk about it."

Talk at dinner was lively, at times argumentative, emotional, funny. Seve slouched in his chair, his shoes off. "Right here is tired," he said, pointing to his arches. He poured himself a beer, and while others talked he listened intently, his gaze fixed on the speaker.

A friend called the club to get Seve's tee time (1:48) and pairing (Jack Newton). Seve said he would rise around 11 and have the identical breakfast he had eaten that morning: four fried eggs, bacon, toast, raisin bran, grapes and coffee.

At 9:15 everyone got up from the table and Seve went into the den. Saturday Night Fever was on television and he leaned back in a chair, his feet moving almost imperceptibly to the beat of the Bee Gees.

"Travolta, he's very good," he remarked to no one in particular, for no one was paying attention to him.

He likes it that way. He is mobbed wherever he goes, except in Spain, and that is where he is happiest. He is uneasy being the center of attention.

"I don't like to be fussed over," Ballesteros said. "I guess I'm a strange person."

The movie ended and people started to leave. When Manuel turned to say good night to his brother, Seve was gone. It was 10 o'clock, and he had slipped off to bed, without anyone in the room noticing.