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Seve Ballesteros dies: golf legend loses long fight with cancer aged 54

The Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros has died following a long battle with cancer after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008.

Seve Ballesteros at the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, Spain - Golfer Seve Ballesteros dies at home in Spain aged 54

Seve Ballesteros at the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama, Spain.
7:18AM BST 07 May 2011

Ballesteros, 54, a five-times major winner, had been recuperating at his home in northern Spain after four operations on the tumour and a course of chemotherapy.

A statement on the Spanish golfer’s website, seveballesteros.comread: “Today, at 2.10 a.m. Spanish time, Seve Ballesteros passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at his home in Pedreña.

“The Ballesteros family is very grateful for all the support and gestures of love that have been received since Seve was diagnosed with a brain tumour on 5th October 2008 at Madrid Hospital la Paz.

“At this time the family asks for respect and privacy at such a painful time. Thank you very much.”

Regarded by many as golf’s greatest shot-maker, Ballesteros won 87 titles worldwide, 50 of them on the European Tour.

A winner of three British Opens and two Masters titles, he also helped revive Europe’s fortunes in the biennial Ryder Cup team competition.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady said: “This is such a very sad day for all who love golf.

“Seve’s unique legacy must be the inspiration he has given to so many to watch, support, and play golf, and finally to fight a cruel illness with equal flair, passion, and fierce determination.

“We have all been so blessed to live in his era. He was the inspiration behind The European Tour.”

On Friday the world of golf held its breath after Ballesteros’s family reported a “severe deterioration” in his neurological condition.

At the Spanish Open in Barcelona fellow Spaniards José-María Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jiménez played together in sombre mood. Twenty-four hours earlier, Olazabal, who last visited the wheelchair-bound Ballesteros a fortnight ago, learnt from Ballesteros’s daughter, Carmen, that his mentor’s condition had taken a grave turn. The European Tour press officer in Barcelona reported that Olazabal and Jiménez were in tears after completing yesterday’s round.

Ballesteros had been battling brain cancer since collapsing at the airport in Madrid in October 2008. He underwent four operations to remove a brain tumour and was in hospital for two months. Though Ballesteros’s health improved in 2009 as a result of chemotherapy, his treatment was not a cure, only a means to prolong life.

Ballesteros had hoped to be well enough to contest the four-hole Champions Trophy at the Open at St Andrews last year but was unable to travel. When he failed to attend a charity dinner in London in honour of his Seve Ballesteros Foundation towards the end of last year, concern over his wellbeing increased.

The emergence of Ballesteros in the Seventies lifted golf to an unprecedented level of popularity in his country and across Europe, sowing the seeds for an unrecognisable expansion of the European Tour. Ballesteros won an incredible 50 times on the European Tour, a record that might never been breached.

His performance at Birkdale in the 1976 Open Championship tying for second with Jack Nicklaus behind winner Johnny Miller while only 19, alerted the world to his genius.

Three years later he won his first major, the Open at Royal Lytham, carding a birdie at the 16th after driving into a car park. Later that year he made his debut in the Ryder Cup, the central figure in the first European selection.

On his appointment as Ryder Cup captain this year Olazabal said his dearest wish was that Ballesteros would accompany the European team in defence of the trophy in Chicago next year. In 15 games together Ballesteros and Olazabal lost only twice. At Celtic Manor last October Ballesteros communicated by phone while his picture hung on the wall in Europe’s dressing room.

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