Tributes paid as golfing great Christy O'Connor Senior passes away aged 91
Christy O'Connor Senior's former Ryder Cup partner has paid tribute to the legendary golfer as "one of the all time greats of the game" after his death at the age of 91. Former BBC commentator Peter Alliss said he should be remembered as "one of Ireland's greatest ever sportsmen".
O'Connor died peacefully in Dublin's Mater Hospital yesterday morning.
Uncle to Christy O'Connor Jnr, who passed away in January, O'Connor Snr won more than 20 tournaments on the Irish and British circuit during a remarkable career, finishing in the top 10 of the British Open 10 times.
He commanded huge respect both at home and abroad for his feats on the tournament circuit during the 1950s, 1960s, and into the 1970s. His record of competing in 10 Ryder Cups was only surpassed by Nick Faldo in 1997.
O'Connor won the British Masters in 1956 and 1959 and played in every Ryder Cup between 1955 and 1973. In later life, he bagged six PGA Senior Championships between 1976 and 1983.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, Peter Alliss, who had been a friend for over four decades, said the Galway native will be remembered as one of Ireland's "finest golfers".
Alliss, who also had a star-studded golfing career, recalled the many "glorious times" he spent with O'Connor on and off the course. "I was his Ryder Cup partner for many years; we used to joke that nobody else would play with us," said Alliss.
"He was a wonderful partner and a beautiful golfer. We weren't renowned for being brilliant, consistent putters, but when we were on our day we could put in a few. We both hit the ball well - Christy was just a joy to play with. He really was a genius of the sport and was also a lovely man. He could be a bit naughty at times and he did like to take a jar, or two, or eight. But he was always a great chum.
"About two weeks ago he had a stroke and he was taken into hospital. He was doing reasonably well but then a couple of days ago he had a heart attack." O'Connor created a huge sensation in 1955 when he won the Swallow-Penfold tournament at Southport and Ainsdale, and became the first golfer to win a first prize cheque of stg£1,000. In 1970, he again broke the mould, taking home the first five-figure cheque on this side of the Atlantic - stg£25,000 - for topping the leaderboard in the John Player Classic.
President Michael D Higgins said O'Connor opened the world of golf to countless people in Ireland and abroad.
"He will be sorely missed by his sporting colleagues, and in particular by his very wide range of family and friends."