Ballesteros junior stands in for dad in Dubai
Javier invited to play in father’s place as past winners tee up in 25th Dubai Desert Classic
Javier Ballesteros in action on the 14th hole during the Champions Challenge as a prelude to the Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
The beaming grin was unmistakable Ballesteros. By the third hole, so was the golf.
Having already rescued unlikely pars on the first two holes of the Emirates Golf Club’s championship course with scrambling brilliantly reminiscent of his father, Javier Ballesteros carved his drive 50 yards wide, into raw desert.
Then the student, wearing Seve’s logo on his shirt and golf bag, holed out from 10ft for birdie: like father, like son.
As he strode from the 18th green later, the endearing smile remained; a two-over-par round of 74 was never going to diminish that.
For the 25th Dubai Desert Classic, the organisers came up with the innovative plan of a Tuesday Champions’ Challenge. Every past winner was invited to play, with one notable exception.
Almost three years have passed since the death of Seve Ballesteros. His memory will be celebrated with the appearance of his youngest son in the tournament proper, as well as at yesterday’s special event.
Ballesteros Sr won the Dubai Desert Classic in 1992 after beating Ronan Rafferty in a play-off; it was his 41st of 45 European Tour wins outside major championships.
Javier’s Champions’ Challenge draw was entirely appropriate. Fellow Spaniards Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal joined him. The latter was Seve’s regular Ryder Cup partner and brother in all but name.
On the first tee, Olazabal’s sentiment was clear as he hugged 23-year old Javier warmly.
“It was really emotional, especially on that first tee,” Olazabal later admitted. “When I saw Javier, I saw Seve. He brought back a lot of memories.
“I could see a lot of Seve on the golf course. He has the same mannerisms as his father, particularly when he is standing over the ball.
“His short game is very nice. His chipping and putting are very good – like his father. I had never played with him before but I have known him since he was a little kid. When he first came here to Dubai, he was probably four or five years old. It is great that they invited him here.”
Javier’s mother, Carmen, and sister who bears the same name, were among the modest crowd following the Spanish trio. “Being able to play here for my dad, I tried to play my best and make him proud,” said Ballesteros.
It remains to be seen whether he will follow in Seve’s professional footsteps, with the odds currently against it. The day job is a law degree course in Madrid and, despite scratch golfer status, the reality is that Javier could never match his father’s on-course greatness.