Monday 26 September 2016

Tributes to 'Father of Irish golf' as O'Connor Snr dies aged 91

David Kearns

Published 16/05/2016 | 02:30

Christy O’Connor Senior with the Canada Cup, which he helped Ireland to win in Mexico in 1958, and a photo of himself on the tee box at the 1985 Irish Open. Photo: Brian Lawless
Christy O’Connor Senior with the Canada Cup, which he helped Ireland to win in Mexico in 1958, and a photo of himself on the tee box at the 1985 Irish Open. Photo: Brian Lawless

The 'Father of Irish golf' Christy O'Connor Snr (91) will be laid to rest tomorrow.

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His death comes after the passing of his nephew, Christy O'Connor Jnr, in January and means Irish golf is mourning two of its most influential figures.

O'Connor Snr, known as 'Himself', won more than 20 tournaments on the Irish and British circuits during his career and finished in the top 10 of the British Open no fewer than 10 times.

In a touching tribute to the beloved golfing figure, his family said the Galway legend would be sorely missed by his wife, their five remaining children and his "cherished grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nephews, and nieces . . . and fans worldwide".

Hundreds of mourners will gather at St John the Baptist Church in Clontarf, Dublin, for his funeral Mass tomorrow. In lieu of flowers, his family have asked for donations to the stroke care unit at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, which they said had given him "wonderful care".

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke led the tributes to O'Connor Snr after news broke of his death on Saturday. "Christy was in many ways the father of Irish golf and his death, so soon after that of his nephew Christy Junior, means Ireland has lost two Ryder Cup legends in the space of five months," he said.

Christy O’Connor Snr playing in the Irish Open in 1976. Photo: NPA/Independent Archive
Christy O’Connor Snr playing in the Irish Open in 1976. Photo: NPA/Independent Archive

"Christy Snr was a golf icon and a wonderful person as well. He did so much for the game he graced for many years, while the Ryder Cup, to some extent, is what it is today because of his passion for it. Irish golf in particular, and golf in general, has lost one of its greatest heroes."

Clarke's predecessor as captain, Paul McGinley, wrote on Twitter: "RIP Christy O'Connor Snr - an inspiration and trailblazer for Irish success in golf."

In 2009, O'Connor Snr became only the second Irishman to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

President Michael D Higgins described O'Connor Snr as a "gifted sportsman and a wonderful human being" who "opened the world of golf to countless people in Ireland and abroad".

"Those of us fortunate enough to have met him will never forget this outstanding man and his great character of humour and compassion," he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the late golfing legend was "the owner of the best pair of wrists in the game".

"Christy O'Connor Senior was known as 'Himself' and always was himself, a wonderful man who left an indelible mark on professional golf and the sporting world. He was a larger than life character."

Irish Independent

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