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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 15 October 2009 10:12 UK

Inside Sport: When Alliss met Seve

For an Inside Sport special, BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss visited golfing great Seve Ballesteros to chat about his career and his ongoing battle against cancer.


Seve on his cancer battle

Seve Ballesteros is a legend not just in golf but in sport.

His greatness was achieved through three Open titles (1979, 1984 and 1988) and two Masters victories (1980, 1983) but it was his charisma and swashbuckling style of play that endeared him to fans around the world.

The Spaniard also played an inspirational role in the Ryder Cup, helping Europe break the US stranglehold on the competition in eight matches between 1979 and 1995 and captaining Europe to victory at the Spanish course of Valderrama in 1997.

Ballesteros retired from competitive golf in 2007 after a lengthy battle against injury and the decline of his game.

It was a very emotional couple of days, which I think comes out in the programme, and I'm sure will provoke many thoughts and generate much affection

Peter Alliss

But on 6 October 2008 his world turned upside down when he was admitted to a Madrid hospital after briefly losing consciousness.

The iconic Seve was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

The 52-year-old has since undergone four operations on the brain to remove the tumour and to reduce swelling in his skull, and is still having radiotherapy.

To kick off a new series of Inside Sport, Alliss met up with Ballesteros at his home in Pedrena.

"The day after the Open Championship I went along with a BBC television crew to visit Seve in his home just outside the northern Spanish town of Santander," said Alliss.

"We weren't quite sure what to expect, we knew that Seve had been in hospital for weeks and was seriously ill.

Seve Ballesteros

Archive - Seve career retrospective

"What greeted us was a pleasant surprise - although he'd pulled a calf muscle while exercising on the beach and was limping, he looked pretty well the same majestic Seve.

"His powerful convictions on life came shining through and his determination to battle his illness was there for all to see.

"We were ushered into his imposing house, high on the hill overlooking the bay and golf course, full of golfing treasures and mementoes of a life in golf, and, quietly, almost unobtrusively, parked in the garage under two fitted covers, a Lamborghini and a Ferrari.

"We talked long and hard of many things, the programme could have lasted three hours, but eventually Seve had had enough.

"We had a glass of wine and made our way down the hill to the yacht club, where he was greeted with open arms, we had the most beautiful dinner, with Seve in fine form.

Jonathan Stevenson

"He was already planning his visit to St Andrews for the 2010 Open, when they will be celebrating the 150th year of the event.

"Due to loss of vision in his left eye he may not be able to compete, but whatever happens he will be there.

"And maybe we'll still get to see him play if the championship committee decide to have another 'Champions' Cavalcade' - past champions, playing the 1st, 2nd, 17th and 18th holes - to give their adoring fans the opportunity of giving them another grand 'hurrah!'

"It was a very emotional couple of days, which I think comes out in the programme, and I'm sure will provoke many thoughts and generate much affection."

Ballesteros tells Gary Lineker he is hoping to return to the Open at St Andrews in 2010

In the programme, Ballesteros revealed that he has been walking around his indoor swimming pool for four kilometres a day to build up his strength.

He visited the golf range to demonstrate his ability to hit shots once again, but his impaired vision - he has lost three quarters of his left eye - means he struggles with his putting.

Reflecting on his recovery, Ballesteros said: "Patience has never been my strongest point and to spend 22 days in intensive care and 72 days in one room you need tremendous patience. There were times when it was tough.

But he adds: "I've had a very good life. I'm sure that some people will feel sorry for me or maybe cry when they see this programme.

"But I feel very happy and a very lucky person because throughout my life I have had so many great moments and I feel that I live two or three more lives than the average person.

"This thing that happened to me is a very little thing compared to other people who have tougher times.

"They didn't have the opportunity to live life so intensely and as well as I did."

Seve Ballesteros

Archive - Seve the Master

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see also
Ten to Tackle - Seve Special
13 Oct 09 |  Fun and Games
Seve's career in photos
13 Oct 09 |  Golf
Ballesteros plans 2010 Open spot
24 Jul 09 |  Golf
Ballesteros savours second chance
25 Jun 09 |  Golf
Ballesteros makes '90% recovery'
06 May 09 |  Golf
World of golf backs legend Seve
13 Oct 08 |  Golf
Ballesteros battles brain tumour
12 Oct 08 |  Golf
Jacklin on Ballesteros
17 Jul 07 |  Golf
Ballesteros ends dazzling career
16 Jul 07 |  Golf

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