Spanish golfer Jose Maria Olazabal was announced here Wednesday as the recipient of the 2013 Prince of Asturias Award for Sports.

Describing Olazabal as "one of the greatest golfers in history," the award jury pointed to the Spaniard's two Masters wins and four Ryder Cups, "a competition in which he also demonstrated his leadership ability when captaining the European team to an epic comeback in 2012."

The 47-year-old is a "worthy successor to the spirit of the legendary Severiano Ballesteros," the late Spanish golf great who won the Asturias Award in 1989, the jury said.

A native of the northern Spanish town of Hondarribia, Olazabal started playing golf when he was 4 years old and turned pro at 19.

He won three European tournaments in 1986 and was part of the 1987 Ryder Cup-winning squad led by Ballesteros.

Olazabal's first U.S. tour victory came in 1990 and he went on to win the Masters in 1994 and 1999.

"I was somewhat surprised to receive the news of the Prince of Asturias Award. The truth is that I expected it to be for Teresa Perales, because she represents the quintessence of pushing back the limits in Paralympic sports," Olazabal said Wednesday.

"Sincerely very thrilled, thank you all," he said.

The Sports Award is one of eight Asturias prizes.

Along with a cash prize of 50,000 euros (about $66,600) and a sculpture by Joan Miro, each award recipient gets a diploma and an insignia bearing the Prince of Asturias Foundation's coat of arms.

The prizes, which Spain's Crown Prince Felipe will hand out at a ceremony in the fall in the northern city of Oviedo, are regarded as the Ibero-American world's equivalent of the Nobels. EFE