MADRID, Spain (AP) — After a career full of miraculous shots — including one from a parking lot during his first British Open win — Seve Ballesteros was preparing for the “hardest challenge” of his life Sunday after announcing he has a brain tumor.
The 51-year-old Ballesteros was set to undergo a biopsy Tuesday before doctors determine how to proceed.
“Throughout my career I have been among the best at overcoming challenges on the golf course,” the five-time major winner said in a statement released by Madrid’s La Paz hospital. “Now I want to be the best confronting the hardest challenge of my life, with all my strength, counting on all of you who are sending me encouraging messages.”
Ballesteros was admitted to the hospital Monday after briefly losing consciousness.
“Once I had been able to inform my three children personally and their mother, I can now communicate to you the illness I am suffering from,” Ballesteros said. “After an in-depth check up which has been carried out on me in the La Paz Hospital they have detected a brain tumor.”
Ballesteros did not give any more details on the test results. It was unknown whether the tumor was benign or malignant.
“I have always shown my solidarity with those people who face illness, including those whose (illnesses) are much worse than mine,” said Ballesteros, who was also admitted to a hospital last year when doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat. “Now my wish is to ask for respect towards my family and especially my children. We will keep you informed.”
The swashbuckling Spaniard was well known for being able to manufacture a shot from just about anywhere, a feat that earned him the title “Car Park Champion” at the 1979 British Open. The Pedrena native found the green from a parking lot next to the 16th fairway at Royal Lytham & St. Annes before sinking a long birdie putt on his way to his first major title.
During that final round, Ballesteros used his driver only nine times and hit the fairway once.
Jose Maria Olazabal, who visited Ballesteros after playing at the Madrid Masters on Sunday, said that his former Ryder Cup partner appeared in good physical shape.
“I saw Seve looking very well. We were speaking for quite a little while,” Olazabal told Spanish news agency Efe. “I wish him a prompt recovery.”
Ballesteros, who won a record 50 times on the European tour, won the British Open three times and the Masters twice before retiring last year due to a long history of back pain. He has since focused mostly on golf course design.
“He was one of the most talented, charismatic players the game has seen,” D.A. Weibring said Sunday in Maryland after winning the Senior Players Championship. “He had a great swagger, had a great short game, great creativity. … He’s truly one of the personalities of the game, especially the creativity and short game.”
Many credit Ballesteros’ spirit and flare on the golf course for transforming the European game.
When the Ryder Cup competition was expanded to include continental Europe in 1979, Ballesteros helped beat the United States in 1985 to begin two decades of dominance. He also captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory on home soil in 1997 at Valderrama.
Ballesteros and Olazabal teamed up to produce the most formidable partnership in Ryder Cup history, with an 11-2-2 record.
“I want to thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who has shown interest with great fondness for my health,” Ballesteros said in the statement. “Many thanks. A big hug.”