Tributes paid to Seve Ballesteros

Tributes poured in to golf legend Seve Ballesteros after the former world number one player died today aged 54 at his home in Spain.

The family of the popular Spaniard, who won five majors and was instrumental in growing golf's popularity, announced he had passed away at 1.10am today due to respiratory failure.

Ballesteros had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008.

Julian Small, chief executive of Wentworth Golf Club, where Ballesteros won five times, said: "Seve was a great champion. He was a swashbuckling man, a handsome man who really entertained the crowd."

The Seve Ballesteros Foundation, which Ballesteros set up following his diagnosis to help others with brain cancer, was the chosen charity for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Mr Small told Sky News: "He played such a fantastic game of golf. Wherever Seve went there was always a huge crowd. He saw the West course here at Wentworth as one of his favourite places to play.

"He is the pioneer, he is the person that has changed the shape in many ways - especially with the general public - of European golf. His way of playing, his whole charisma, he brought it to new markets, to new people, to new populations. He is Europe's version of Arnold Palmer, he is the person that really made that big difference.

"Seve and the Ryder Cup - it's legendary what he did. To think that Colin Montgomery had him on a speakerphone to the team last year down at Celtic Manor is a sign of how the professional golfers were inspired by him.

"Seve was in many ways the king of the recovery shot. I always remember a wonderful shot - I think it may have been in 1991 - over a shot that was a very tricky shot and a very important shot in the game. A little boy behind him was rattling his coins in his pocket and Seve stepped back and said to the little boy, 'Are you nervous?' He said, 'Yes' - he said, 'So am I!'."

Ballesteros had joined forces with Cancer Research UK to raise money for the charity to help fund research into brain cancer.

Today the chief executive of Cancer Research UK Harpal Kumar said: "We're very saddened to hear that Seve Ballesteros has lost his fight against brain cancer. I had the great honour of meeting Seve and his family at his home in Pedrena when we first established the Seve Ballesteros Foundation partnership in 2009 and my thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.

"Seve was a hero to many for all he achieved during his career, but never more so than in the months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. His personal battle against the disease, and his determination to help others through his Foundation, was truly inspirational.

"Seve's experience brought a much needed spotlight onto brain cancer and Cancer Research UK was honoured to join forces with his Foundation to work towards our shared goal of beating brain cancer. It's a huge challenge but one that Seve was committed to making a reality.

"The partnership with Cancer Research UK has already raised over £700,000 towards ambitious and vital research that will help improve diagnosis and treatment of brain cancers in the future.

"Today we have lost a man who will be much missed and remembered the world over for what he achieved both on and off the golf course."

Among hundreds of tributes by users of Twitter, Piers Morgan wrote: "RIP Seve Ballesteros - greatest genius golf has ever seen."

Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan wrote: "Not many can say they made the sport they played Trendy,cool,fun and sexy.Seve single handily did that. £RIPSEVE"

BBC sports presenter Jake Humphrey wrote: "'Legend' is the most overused word in sport. It applied to Seve Ballesteros. He changed the face of golf. Thoughts with his family. RIP"

Ballesteros, who announced his retirement from golf in 2007, collapsed at Madrid Airport in October 2008 and two days later came confirmation that he had a brain tumour.

He underwent an initial 12-hour operation, but further surgery was necessary before he was well enough to return home and begin chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

"I am very motivated and working hard, although I am aware that my recovery will be slow and therefore I need to be patient and have a lot of determination," he said at the time.

"For these reasons I am following strictly all the instructions that the doctors are giving me. Besides, the physiotherapists are doing a great job on me and I feel better every day."

After a second course of chemotherapy at Madrid's La Paz Hospital in February 2009 he said on his website: "The results of the check-up were really positive, better even than the first ones."

Two more courses followed and four months later Ballesteros made his first public appearance, saying it was "a miracle" to be alive.

In December 2009 he appeared on television to receive the BBC's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Personality of the Year event from his former Ryder Cup partner - and now captain - Jose Maria Olazabal.

He won the Open three times, the Masters twice and played an inspirational role in the Ryder Cup, helping Europe to lift the trophy in 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1995 before captaining them to another victory at Valderrama two years later.

Ballesteros turned professional in 1974 at the age of 16 and made his first huge impact two years later by finishing second in the Open alongside Jack Nicklaus at Royal Birkdale.

His first major title came in the 1979 Open at Royal Lytham, he then became Masters champion in 1980 and 1983 and lifted the Claret Jug again at St Andrews in 1984 - his greatest moment really - and back at Lytham in 1988.

After a total of 87 tournament wins, his retirement came following years of battling an arthritic back and knee problems.

He was planning a farewell appearance for British fans at last year's Open at St Andrews - not in the main event, but in the four-hole Champions Challenge - but was not well enough to travel.

The flags at Real Club de Golf El Prat will be flown at half-mast in him memory for today's third round of the Spanish Open, while the players will wear black ribbons and there will also be a minute's silence.