Tuesday January 12th will be remembered as the day we laid an Irish golfing legend to rest. Christy O’Connor Junior was not only a legend in Ireland but touched the hearts of the golfing community at large. Tributes poured in from all over the world. It is hard to believe he was only 67 years of age.
He accomplished so much in his golfing career. Apart from his wonderful playing record he became an acclaimed golf course designer with over 30 courses to his name. His legacy will live on through his wonderful design. He was particularly proud of Galway Bay Golf Resort. Voted by the IGTOA as the Parkland Course of the Year for 2015. It was only fitting that his family hosted a post funeral reception for Christy’s friends at the club. Christy qualified as a club professional before he played the tour full time. He held positions at Carlow Golf Club and at my home club of Shannon. My father Jerry worked very closely with him at this time.
As I said earlier there were many highs to his playing career. Here are four of the best.
1975 – The Irish Open at Woodbrook Golf Club
Christy produced rounds of 66, 70, 69 & 70 for a 21 under par total to win by one shot from England’s Harry Bannerman. Christy O’Connor senior, Christy’s uncle greeted him on the 18th green with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. An entire nation watched with pride.
1989 – The Ryder Cup matches at the Belfry
Christy walked to the 1st tee in his singles match as a massive underdog to the World’s No.1 Freddie Couples. All square playing the 18th, Christy produced one of the greatest golf shots of all time. He rifled a 2 iron 235 yards over water to four feet and won the vital point. My father Jerry was standing opposite to witness Christy’s greatest moment.
1992 – The British Masters at Woburn
Just 12 days after surviving a helicopter crash while surveying a site, Christy claimed the title at Woburn beating Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone in a playoff. He left the likes of Seve, Faldo, Langer and Azinger in his wake.
2000 – Senior British Open at Royal County Down
Having claimed the title at Royal Portrush in 1999 Christy became just the second man in history to defend the Senior Open. His friend Brian Barnes of Scotland being the other.
While Christy had many great days tragedy stuck him also. In 1998 Christy and Ann lost their youngest son Darren to a car accident. Darren was warmly remembered during the beautiful ceremony at Galway Cathedral last Tuesday. Christy was laid to rest beside his beloved son.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the O’Connor family at this heartbreaking time.
Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.