Death of golf great and Lytham legend

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Spanish golf legend and Royal Lytham and St Annes hero Seve Ballesteros has died after a protracted battle with cancer.

The 54-year-old had health problems since being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008, when he lost consciousness at Madrid Airport. He died overnight after his family reported a dramatic worsening of his condition yesterday.

Ballesteros won the first of his five Major championships at Royal Lytham in 1979.

It was the first of three Open triumphs for the charismatic Spaniard, who savoured glory at Lytham again in 1988, his last Major win.

He also won the Open at St Andrews in 1984, having been crowned US Masters champion in 1980 and 1983.

Ballesteros had four operations to remove the tumour as well as undergoing chemotherapy.

Tennis star Rafael Nadal described Ballesteros as a “reference point” for Spanish athletes.

“He’s one of the greats of this country without a doubt,” he said.

Ballesteros, who claimed 87 titles over his career, became the first European to win the Masters at Augusta.

He also enjoyed a successful Ryder Cup career as both player and captain –playing in eight Ryder Cups and winning 20 points from 37 matches before guiding Europe to victory over the United States at Valderrama in 1997.

He appeared in public for the first time following the surgery in May 2009, when he went to watch his local football team Racing Santander and was given a standing ovation.