Japanese players pay tribute to Ballesteros

Seve Ballesteros, Spanish golfer

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Momoko Ueda promised to thrill spectators in the World Ladies Championship just like golf great Seve Ballesteros did.

Ueda said, ‘‘My coach, (Tadashi) Ezure-san, used to show me video clips of his play. He was wowing the crowd with spectacular shots. I hope to do the same tomorrow.’‘

Ballesteros died Saturday in Spain at the age of 54 due to complications of a cancerous brain tumor.

The former Japanese rivals of Ballesteros and 19-year old Ryo Ishikawa was shocked when they heard the news.

‘‘Not so many people in my age group know about Seve,’’ Ishikawa said in a statement.

‘‘But to me, Tiger Woods and Seve are similar in the way they play golf. Seve was one of my idols. I’ve heard of legendary stories of his play, such as making a birdie after hitting a shot from an adjacent hole or reaching the green from trees.’‘

Ishikawa was only a 15-year old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open in May 2007 and broke the record of Ballesteros as the youngest winner on the Japanese tour.  Ballesteros was only 20 years and 7 months when he won the Japan Open in 1977.

‘‘It’s sad,’’ Isao Aoki said. ‘‘He was one of my greatest rivals. 54? A bit too early, isn’t it?

‘‘My favorite memory of him is that he invited me to his house in Florida. May his soul rest in peace.’‘

Ballesteros has up to 50 European Tour titles. He is a three-time British open and two-time Masters Tournament winner.

He had brain surgery in 2008 and was staying at his house for further treatment.

‘‘I don’t really know what to say,’’ Tsuneyuki ‘‘Tommy’’ Nakajima said. ‘‘There are so many memories I had with Seve. I believed he would recover like he did on golf courses. He was a great rival and a good friend.’’