Most golfers try to avoid hazards. Seve Ballesteros seemed drawn to them. It's as if the game would've been boring for him otherwise. But no matter where his ball landed, he always seemed to find a way out. The Spanish escape artist emerged onto the scene in 1976 when he tied for second at the British Open. He was only 19. Four years later, he became the youngest player to win the Masters (until Tiger Woods) and went on to win four more majors and a record 50 European events. Europe's first true golf star, he led the continent to its first Ryder Cup victory in the U.S. in 1987. But it was Ballesteros' charisma and creativity that won him fans, many of whom were shocked by the 2008 announcement that he had a brain tumor. At the funeral for Ballesteros, who died May 7 at 54, children held 3-irons, the first club he learned to play with as a boy.
This text originally appeared in the May 23, 2011 issue of TIME magazine.