Bio of Spanish Golfer Ramon Sota

Ramon Sota was from the generation of Spanish golfers that preceded Seve Ballesteros' arrival on the world scene. And, in fact, he was Seve's uncle. That's probably how he is most-remembered today, but Sota won multiple national opens on the European circuit that preceded the modern European Tour, and in some years was considered the best golfer from Continental Europe.

Full name: Ramon Sota Ocejo

Date of birth: April 23, 1938

Place of birth: Pedrena, Cantabria, Spain

Date and place of death: August 28, 2012, in Pedrena, Cantabria, Spain

His Biggest Wins

  • 1956 Spanish Professional Championship
  • 1959 Spanish Professional Championship
  • 1960 Spanish Professional Championship
  • 1961 Spanish Professional Championship
  • 1963 Spanish Open
  • 1963 Portuguese Open
  • 1965 French Open
  • 1965 Brazil Open
  • 1966 Dutch Open
  • 1966 Puerto Rico Open
  • 1969 Portuguese Open
  • 1969 Madrid Open
  • 1970 Portuguese Open
  • 1971 Algarve Open
  • 1971 Italian Open
  • 1971 Dutch Open

In the Majors

Sota never played in the U.S. Open or the U.S. PGA Championship. But he tied for seventh place in the 1963 British Open, and tied for sixth place in the 1965 Masters. Those were his only two Top 10 finishes in majors.

Sota opened with a 69 in the 1963 Open, and remained in the Top 10 following each round. At the 1965 Masters, Sota was tied for 10th after 36 holes, moved up to eighth following the third round, and with a closing 72 tied Gene Littler for sixth. If tied sixth doesn't sound impressive, consider that, to this point in Masters history, it was the highest finish by any golfer from continental Europe.

The first major Sota played in was the 1958 Open Championship, and the last was the 1972 Open. He had several other Top 20 finishes in the British Open: 15th in 1960, 12th in 1961 and tied 11th in 1971.

More About Ramon Sota

Ramon Sota today is often mentioned in relation to Seve Ballesteros — literally in relation to. Sota was Ballesteros' uncle. Seve's mother was Ramon's sister. And Ballesteros often cited the influence of his uncle on his life and his golf.

That connection sometimes overshadows Sota's own pro golf career, however. That career was a fruitful one: In the years from 1963 through 1971, Sota won 12 tournaments around the world, most of them national opens. He won the Portuguese Open three times, the Dutch Open twice, plus the Spanish, French, Italian and even Brazil opens.

Sota, like the Ballesteros brothers who followed him, grew up caddying at Real Golf de Pedrena, the club in his hometown (and lifelong residence) of Pedrena, Spain. He turned pro in 1956 and that same year, at the age of 18, won the first of his four titles in the Spanish Professional Championship. (He also won that title three years running in 1959-61.)

In 1960 Sota made the cut for the first time in the British Open, finishing 15th. In 1963, he captured his first national opens playing on the European circuit, winning his home Spanish Open plus the Portuguese Open.

He also, in 1963, had his best finish in the Open Championship, tying for seventh. The Open was played at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that year, just as it was in 1979 when Sota's newphew, Seve, won the first of his three British Open titles there.

Sota's victory in the 1965 French Open included a second-round score of 11-under 62, which broke the course record by a whopping six strokes. That round included a double eagle on the 556-yard, par-5 16th hole. But he wound up having to hold on for a one-stroke victory. Trying for the repeat in 1966, Sota finished second by one to Denis Hutchinson. (He was also runner-up in the Spanish Opens of 1960 and 1964.)

Sota began playing outside of Europe, as well, in the mid-1960s, winning the 1965 Brazil Open and, on the Caribbean Tour, the 1966 Puerto Rico Open. But it was on the European circuit of the era where his biggest wins continued, including another win in Spain at the 1969 Madrid Open.

The year 1971 was Sota's best: He finished 10th on the European circuit's Order of Merit after recording three victories, winning the Algarve Open, Italian Open and Dutch Open. But those turned out to be his final pro tour wins.

The first year of the modern European Tour was 1972, and Sota started the year on tour. But at the Double Diamond International tournament England, he became the first pro ever penalized for slow play in Britain. Some sources say that the Spanish pro golf community was outraged over the penalty, viewing it as a slight to one of their own; others say that Sota was very much personally embarrassed by the penalty. Regardless, that penalty for slow play is often cited as one of the primary reasons Sota decided to leave the European Tour during its inaugural season.

And that is probably why he never won another tournament after 1971, even though 1971 was his best year yet. Sota played in 12 Euro Tour tournaments in 1972, but after that rarely played more than one or two per year, and none from 1978-86.

Over the course of his career, Sota represented Spain in the World Cup nine times. He played in that international team tournament in 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971. He finished fourth individually in the 1964 World Cup. In the team competition that year, Sota partnered with Sebastien Miguel to lead Spain to a second-place finish, three strokes behind the Jack Nicklaus-and-Arnold Palmer United States team.

Sota also played on the European Seniors Tour from 1992-95, recording two Top 10 finishes.

From the early 2000s, Sota, along with his two sons, built and ran a par-3 course, driving range and golf academy near his hometown of Pedrena.

Sota died of pneumonia at the age of 74 in 2012. He was preceded in death by one year by his nephew, Ballesteros.

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