Billy Foster worked with Seve Ballesteros for five years. He gives us the inside story of working with the fiery Spaniard
Seve Ballesteros and Billy Foster worked at five Masters together from 1991 to ’95. Foster had enjoyed five years with Gordon Brand Jr and two tastes of the Ryder Cup but this was an experience straight out of the top drawer.
Foster, who has now been part of tour life for more than 35 years, was pondering become the assistant pro at Ilkley when Ballesteros offered him a job for the 1991 season. Twenty years later Foster was a pall bearer at Ballesteros’ funeral.
This is taken from an interview with Foster at his Baildon home in 2013 and recalls the pair’s time spent together at Augusta National. Foster has since been back with Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn and David Frost. This year, he’ll be alongside Matt Fitzpatrick.
How invaluable was your time spent with Seve at Augusta?
I learned everything about Augusta through Seve – his course-management skills were second to none. My first ever day with him at Augusta was on the Saturday before and Seve played on his own and took seven hours to get round.
He hit 10 tee shots, 25 approaches and 100 putts on every green and he had probably played in over 15 Masters by this stage. He was so professional.
It is ingrained in me now and, whoever I ever caddie for at Augusta, I will always see it through Seve’s eyes particularly around the greens.
- Related: Paramor: My run-ins with Ballesteros
- Related: A Life In Golf: Ballesteros
What was your first round like?
He hits the fairway at the 9th and he is doing OK. It is uphill, against the wind to a front left pin, and he says pitching wedge. I tell him it’s a 9 and he says OK and hits a great shot and I’m thinking the crowd are going to go wild and he will give me a big hug.
Nobody reacts and when we arrive the ball is on the top of three tiers, putting down a marble staircase from 80 feet.
What happened next?
He looks at me with his arms outstretched saying, “Billy! Billy! You son of my bitch!”
And at that point I’m thinking, ‘I want my mummy.’
He putts it, the hole is over his left shoulder, and the ball stops on the edge of the green on the wrong tier. And then it starts trickling, you could see the dimples, and it finishes six inches away.
Coming off the green he puts his arm around me with a big smile and says: “It’s not your fault Billy, it’s mine for listening to you.”
Did you have any big fall-outs?
The last time I worked for Seve at Augusta was in 1995 and we were playing with Ray Floyd and he had Steve Williams on the bag.
We were on 17 and it was between a 6 and a 7 and he hit 6 on my advice. He hits a good shot and it finishes just off the back of the green, which was fine. You would expect him to chip it in but he knocked it eight foot past and missed the putt.
By the time we got to the 18th tee he had already had a go at me five times accusing me of the wrong club, and it wasn’t really. I bit my tongue until eventually I could feel the bubbles coming up through my throat into my ears and he had another go.
And I shouted at the top of my voice: “I f***ing heard you, alright!”
And Ray and Steve’s jaws just dropped and hit the floor.
Seve didn’t speak to me and we had a bit of a shouting match at the front of the clubhouse. I got a lot off my chest but it broke the relationship and when I got home on the Tuesday I got a call from his manager saying my services were no longer required.
How long did that last?
It was time to move on but we were like best mates within a few weeks. Around that time he couldn’t compete any more and it broke his heart, and it broke mine too. If I could have gone to Spain and given him a piggyback to St Andrews to give him his final send off in 2010 I would have done.
But he wasn’t well enough. I was very lucky to do five Opens with him and the hairs on the back of your neck stood up every time you made your way to the 1st tee.
Everybody, particularly in Britain, loved him.
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