'He really did enjoy life' - Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley pay tribute to 'Junior'
Published 06/01/2016 | 20:20
Irish golfing heroes Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington have paid tribute to 1989 Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor after he died suddenly while on holidays in Spain.
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.
He won four times on Tour, finished in top five of the Open Championship on two occasions, played in two Ryder Cups and won two Senior Opens. His record as a player stood on its own and his work as a course designer further enhanced his reputation.
Paul McGinley was another Irishman inspired by O’Connor. “I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it this morning, especially as just before Christmas I had a wonderful night out in Dublin with Christy and some of the older Irish pros,” McGinley said.
“We had a great night, full of memories, full of stories and full of good old Irish craic and laughs, and it is the laughter and fun that I will remember most about Christy.
"I've never seen him in bad form. He was always full of life, full of stories... loved life, loved golf.
"I don't know anybody from my era who enjoyed being on tour as much as Christy. He really was special in that way.
"He's the greatest ambassador for golf Ireland ever had. He could play the Bodhrán, he could sing songs, he could joke and he could play golf on top of it.
"My memory of Christy would be fun rather than the two-iron, he really did enjoy his life.
"This news will hit Darce (Eamonn D'Arcy) very hard, you never saw one without the other. They were like two brothers on tour."
On his heroics at the Belfry, McGinley said: "To see him going out against Fred Couples, who was then one of the younger members of the American team, a superstar in the making and to take care of him the way he did... to show you the difference in length off the tee, Fred his driver and nine-iron on 18 whereas Junior was hitting driver two-iron.
"To go out against a player who was overpowering him the whole way round, bring him down the 18th and then put the pressure on him with the two-iron on 18... it certainly made me proud as a young Irish student in San Diego ,halfway across the world.
"It was special."
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington took to Twitter to voice his sadness.
Harrington wrote: "Terribly sad to hear of Christy Jnr's passing. He leaves me and so many with great memories both on and off the course. RIP Christy #legend."
O'Connor Jnr is survived by his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann. The couple's other son, Darren, died in a road accident in 1998 aged 17.
Terribly sad to hear of Christy Jnr's passing.He leaves me and so many with great memories both on and off the course. RIP Christy #legend— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) January 6, 2016