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Ballesteros grateful for a ‘Mulligan’ in life

Spanish golfing great has described his fight against tumour akin to playing his sixth major.

other Updated: Apr 01, 2009 00:10 IST

Golfing great Seve Ballesteros has spoken for the first time about his battle to survive a brain tumour, describing his fight for life as akin to playing for a sixth major.

The Spaniard has had three operations and is currently undergoing a fourth round of chemotherapy since he collapsed on an escalator at Madrid’s Barajas Airport on October 6, 2008.

Speaking to Spanish sports daily Marca, the 51-year-old recalled how he had snapped at a woman who had attempted to help. “I remember I told her ‘Madam, shut up, you are making a scene.’”

Despite the pleading of airline staff who wanted him to see a doctor immediately, Ballesteros dragged his suitcase out to where his nephew Ivan was waiting for him, intent on keeping a lunch date with his son Miguel.

“I just got into the car and told him: ‘If you knew what had happened to me.’”

Ballesteros never made lunch. After fainting again at the door of the restaurant he was taken to Madrid’s La Paz hospital, where a scan confirmed a diagnosis that was to send shockwaves around the world. “They were very clear with me, they told me: ‘This is a tumour, it is lucky it is in a place on the right side (of the brain).

“At that moment, I was shocked. You are fine and suddenly they tell you that, can you imagine? It is dreadful.”

Although he admits there are still times when he feels extremely low, Ballesteros was upbeat about the progress of his rehabilitation. “My name is no longer Seve Ballesteros, my name is Seve Mulligan because I have had the luck of getting a Mulligan, which in golf is a second opportunity.

“I have got a Mulligan in life. The proof is that I am alive and that I can do many things, that I can talk and I can think perfectly. If I think about it objectively, I have been lucky, this is the truth.”

Ballesteros’s days are now filled by a programme of cycling, swimming, rowing and walking which, combined with a low-fat, alcohol-free diet, has resulted in him regaining the svelte figure he had when, as a 23-year-old, he became the first European to win the US Masters.

As a lover of red meat and red wine, it is not the kind of lifestyle that Ballesteros would have chosen, but his spirits have been lifted by the reaction of golf fans all over the world, more than 300,000 of whom have sent messages of support since October.

“I knew they admired me but I did not know that they loved me so much,” he said in an English translation of the Marca interview published by The Times.

It will be some time before Ballesteros knows what his future holds and he offered an insight into the lows he has had to endure over the last few months.

“When you wake up in the morning, you do not want to get out of bed and you say, ‘Where do I go?’

“The problem is there when you are fuly aware of what is happening, that is when you feel the inside pain. But the way I look at it, this is the biggest battle of my life, this is the sixth major.”

First Published: Apr 01, 2009 00:08 IST