Smyth: He was a larger than life figure, just an amazing personality
Published 07/01/2016 | 02:30
Timing is everything in golf and in life, and that's why Des Smyth is grateful that a pre-Christmas gathering of Irish professionals will remain his abiding memory of a great friend.
Smyth, one of the great ambassadors of Irish golf, was understandably very upset by Christy O'Connor Junior's sudden death.
However, he did take some consolation from enjoying a night in the company of 'Junior' and fellow golfers - O'Connor, Smyth, Eamonn Darcy, Paddy McGuirk, Philip Walton, Paul McGinley, Denis O'Sullivan and Smyth's long-time caddie Ray Latchford met for a drink and a meal.
"I'm shocked and so sad for Ann and all the family," said Smyth. "I met Christy, thankfully, over Christmas.
"We had a little get-together of old pros which we've been doing for the last few years, guys who soldiered together.
"If there was anything the matter with Christy, he didn't say anything to me. He looked and behaved as he's always been, larger than life. He was in good form.
"There was no sign of anything wrong. That's why so many people are shocked."
How long has Smyth known Junior? Almost 50 years.
"We go back forever. I would have met him first when he was assistant to Christy Senior in Royal Dublin, and that was the first recollection of meeting him.
"It would have been in the late '60s I suppose. Then when I turned pro and started to play in '74, that's when we used to hang out together.
"I played with him in the World Cup, and in the Dunhill Cup. We played a lot of golf together and we did a lot of charity work - lots of Pro-Ams, especially the Shannon Pro-Am, a tournament with which he was heavily involved.
"We were great mates and that's why we used to get together at Christmas just to go over old times."
As a person, the two-time Ryder Cup vice-captain described O'Connor as "a larger than life figure".
"He was a big star, on and off the golf course. He was just an amazing personality."
O'Connor's ability as a golfer was highly respected on the Tour.
"He was a terrific player. He wasn't a huge hitter in terms of distance, but he had tremendous ball control," said Smyth
"He used to shape the ball right to left, and left to right at will, and the hallmark of his game was his accuracy. From the tee in particular, he was a very straight driver of the ball, and he deservedly had great success."