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'Larger-than-life' O'Leary passes


John O’Leary winning in 1982

John O’Leary winning in 1982

John O’Leary winning in 1982

PAUL McGinley has led the tributes following the death, after a lengthy illness, of 1976 Ryder Cup player and 1982 Irish Open champion John O'Leary at the age of 70.

"More sad news in the passing of my friend and fellow Irishman 'Jonno' O'Leary - always a dedicated follower of fashion and all-round great guy," said McGinley.

Known to many as 'John O', O'Leary was born in Blackrock, Co Dublin, and became a familiar figure on golf's South African and European tours, sporting a mullet hairstyle and some outrageously colourful outfits.

He qualified for the 1976 Ryder Cup team but lost all four matches in an era of American pre-eminence and injuries would restrict his progress.

The undoubted highlight of his professional career was winning the Irish Open title in 1982, at Portmarnock, when he held off a stellar field.

O'Leary would remain the last Irish golfer to win the national title until Pádraig Harrington finally emulated the feat in 2007.

"So sorry to hear of the passing of a legend of Irish golf John O'Leary," said Harrington.

"He always had a kind word to say and gave you advice without preaching. He was a larger-than-life character whose stories will live on."

Even before stepping away from playing commitments, O'Leary was a prominent advocate for his fellow pros on the board of the European Tour.

And he would prove to be a significant influence when it came to ensuring Ireland hosted the Ryder Cup for the first time, at the K Club in 2006.