Sunday, 10 January 2016

Christy O'Connor Jnr 1946 - 2016

One of the biggest stars of Irish golf, Christy O'Connor Jnr, has died.

The 67-year-old from Galway was best remembered for helping Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1989 when he fired a stunning shot with his two iron to within feet of the hole.

O'Connor's victory over American Fred Couples helped ensure the contest finished 14-14 with holders Europe therefore retaining the trophy.

The Golf Union of Ireland paid tribute by posting a clip of the memorable shot online and a note describing him as "a gentleman, an iconic figure of Irish golf and a true ambassador".

"He was a pioneer for professional Irish golfers and inspired a generation of players," the organisation said.

O'Connor Jnr's career highlights included two Ryder Cup appearances, 17 professional tournament wins, four wins on the European Tour and two British Open Senior titles.

It is understood he was on holiday in Tenerife when he died.

In his latter years O'Connor Jnr - the nephew of another hero of Irish golf, Christy O'Connor Snr - was heavily involved in designing golf courses.

Tributes began to flood in following news of his death.

O'Connor Jnr was a supporter of Special Olympics and the Irish branch of the organisation described him as one of Ireland's greatest ever talents and a dedicated patron.

The Professional Golfers' Association said: "Sad news that Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr has passed away."

Local politician in Galway, Brian Walsh, said: "A great talent who brought much enjoyment to many and worked quietly to benefit Galway causes."

Michael Ring, Ireland's junior minister for sport, described O'Connor as one of the country's finest golfers and sportsmen.

He also achieved a number of victories on the senior circuit

"He contributed so much to sport in Ireland and was a role model for many Irish golfers," he said.

"Christy was a very talented golfer and everyone involved in Irish sport will be saddened at the news of his passing today."

"I knew Christy personally and he was a model sportsman and a thorough gentleman. He will be greatly missed".

Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley wrote on Twitter: "We've lost a true Irishman, character and golfer - Christy O Connor jnr RIP."

Shane Lowry added: "Very sad news today about Christy O'Connor Jnr. An absolute legend of Irish golf. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones."

Speaking in 2010 about his famous victory over Couples, O'Connor Jnr revealed European captain Tony Jacklin had been one of the few people to have faith in one of his three wild card selections.

"It was the greatest and most emotional moment of my professional life," O'Connor Jnr recalled. "I'd felt terrible at breakfast that morning because of an article writing me off in one of the Sunday newspapers.

"I felt the pressure it put on me was too much. Tony Jacklin, the captain, was brilliant on the final hole. He said on the 18th tee that if I put the pressure on, Fred wouldn't be able to take it.

"Even though I was miles behind him after the tee shots, Jacko didn't lose faith. 'Put it on the green, I've a feeling that something will happen,' he said.

"Well everyone knows that I played the shot of my life, a two iron from 235 yards that finished four foot from the hole. I guess you could say I did put it on the green and something did happen. I remember looking up to the sky with my arms outstretched and tears ran down my face.

"It was unforgettable."


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