As one of sport’s most iconic figures, Severiano Ballesteros, was laid to rest yesterday in his home village of Pedrena in Northern Spain, Letterkenny born B.B.C. journalist, Josephine McCusker, who was among the attendance at the funeral, spoke this week of visiting the golfer at his residence to produce a documentary on his career and illness.
Along with well known golfing broadcaster, Peter Allis, she and a film crew spent three days at the Ballesteros homestead in 2009 as the three times Open winner was undergoing chemotherapy and treatment to counteract the effects of a brain tumour diagnosed the previous year.
She subsequently was involved in the programming when the ace golfer, who passed away last Saturday at the age of 54 years, was presented with a B.B.C. Lifetime Achievement Award by his close friend and fellow Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal. And followed that up with another visit to his home in July last in the company of B.B.C. commentator, Ken Brown, for a further interview.
“When we visited him, I felt after a while that it was a bit of an imposition on him but he told us ‘no, no, you’ve come a long way.’. I wouldn’t say he was a personal friend but I worked with him and at the end of the day he was a colleague,” Josephine told the ‘Democrat’ just before she flew out from London’s Heathrow for the funeral.
“Seve was somebody who could lighten up a room with a smile and darken it with a scowl,” she maintained.
“When he was in top form he could make you feel you were the most important person in the world. He was great, always happy to please,” added Josephine (Jo) who is the daughter of Bridget and the late Joe McCusker of Beechwood Road. Employed by the B.B.C. since 1991, she became only the station’s second women editor in the history of their T.V. sports unit.
The golfer’s big goal was to participate in the four-hole Champions Challenge at St. Andrew’s just before the 2010 Open Championship. “But he just wasn’t well enough to travel.”
She recalled his home in Pedrena, close to the Spanish town of Santander, which was complete with golf course in the garden, his trophy room - Ballesteros also claimed two Masters titles among numerous other honours and engineered a return to success for the European team in the Ryder Cup - and his array of green jackets.
“He was so enthusiastic about the game even during his illness. He fought really, really hard in his battle against the cancer. How he lasted as long as he did was a miracle.”
On her Twitter page this week, B.B.C. presenter Clare Balding said: “The B.B.C. is very lucky to have a brilliant editor called Jo McCusker who adored Seve and he adored her.”
Reflecting on the funeral, attended by many of the world’s top golfers and other sports personalities, the Letterkenny native declared: “He deserves a good send-off. His attitude would have been - get on with your life, get on with your job.”
Following yesterday’s service in the small village church of San Pedro, Seve’s remains were cremated. The ashes were to be taken to be interred under a magnolia tree at his home.
“He wanted something personal and had planned the beautiful ceremony. I was honoured to have been invited. It was very personal and very nice,” Josephine indicated.