Seve! You only had to say that name and people everywhere knew precisely who you were talking about. The great golfing conquistador who single handedly transformed European golf is gone and with him a bright light extinguished in our world.
I last saw Seve in September of 2007, the year before he collapsed and his cancer was diagnosed. I was at St Andrews waiting to interview him whilst a film shot of him reliving the famous moment on the 18th hole when he clinched the 1984 Open was being staged for a DVD of his life story. He was dressed in black rather than his trademark last day navy blue and the production editor was getting stressed. 'God knows how long this is going to take. We've hired a "chopper' to do some aerial shots which is already costing a small fortune and he has got to hole that putt yet.'
Seve had to 'can' the famous 14 feet putt that toppled in the side of the hole before he went into his signature, clenched fist celebrations. The other journalist, a broadsheet feature writer, and I said we were simply happy to watch Seve however long it took, but we did not have to wait long.
The great Spaniard strode onto the 18th green to a huge round of applause as passing folk realised who it was back at the Old Course. He looked at the putt hard, stood over it and, first time, rapped it into the back of the hole to wild cheers and laughter, a sound that had followed him around courses throughout his professional life.
Job done we strode off down the 18th hole towards the Old Course Hotel where we were to hold the interview over breakfast. Before we got to the Swilken Bridge a blonde American lady had hauled herself over the wall of the Old Course and rushed towards us. 'Seve, you are my hero,' she cried and almost begged to have her photograph taken with him. The great man obliged and she rushed away again deliriously happy. Seve had that effect on women.
Then two more American autograph hunters appeared, male this time, and again Seve does his stuff. Notoriously careful with his money, Seve says to us two journalists , 'If I charge pound for every autograph I be very rich man.'
For a moment as he looks around the Swilken Burn bathed in autumn sunlight, perhaps remembering his halcyon days, there is something almost approaching sadness in his dark brown eyes. Then he snaps back into the present as he looks approvingly at the Road Hole. 'Thees great golf hole. Everyone talk about par five or par three make great golf hole. I want make holes like thees. You take birdie, par, maybe seven, eight, nine.' he smiles and we walk back down the fairway to the entrance to his hotel.
Despite the no smoking signs everywhere. Seve lights up in the lift. He looks sternly at us, 'You no write about,' he says wagging his non smoking index finger before he takes another drag before nipping it out and striding in for breakfast.
We chat for an hour as he picks at breakfast and looks at every good looking woman who comes into the restaurant. 'I theenk maybe from my agency,' he says, but no one round the table believes him. He tells us of his post golf ambition to enter the Dakar rally. A truly awful driver who would hit the kerb even on his way back from his local golf club to home we gasp in amazement. 'As driver?' I ask. He smiles. 'Oh no. I navigator.'
Sadly he never made it to Dakar. Nor to St Andrews again. The last sight I had of him on this earth was being photographed with two security guards at Edinburgh airport and giving them his autograph. He made their day, just as he so often did ours. They loved him. And so did we.