Irish golf lost a truly remarkable man on May 16 last with the passing of Galway Golf Club’s Tommy O’Connor at the age of 91.
In recent years, Tommy was well known in golfing circles, having shot a 77 gross at Galway at the age of 87 to beat his age by 10 shots.
While this was something of a viral moment on social media, it was no surprise to those familiar with his talent.
One of a family of 10, he grew up on a small farm at Knocknacarra, just 100 yards from the eighth tee at Galway Golf Club, where his mother, Mary, delivered milk and his Dad, Martin, occasionally worked on the course.
He left school at 14 to become a plasterer but excelled at Galway, playing eight Costello Cup Finals and winning five for a record that remains today.
In the 1967 Captain’s Prize, Tom asked professional Bob Wallace if any good scores had been posted.
“Sean Hosty had an excellent score of 68,” Bob replied, saying there was a two-under score in. “There is only one man who can catch him, but you will have to go for everything.”
Tommy did just that and shot 66 gross for a new course record.
His friend Gerry Molloy recalls playing with Tom in a One Club competition (no putter), where Tom selected a three-iron and went around in level par.
He represented Galway Golf Club on numerous occasions winning the Irish Junior Cup in 1957 and 1958 as well as the All Ireland Barton Shield in 1972 with partner Des Mahon, Sean Hosty and Michael Lynch in Portmarnock.
While he beat reigning Irish Open champion, John Duncan in the top match in the 1962 Senior Cup final at Royal Portrush, Shandon Park won their third successive title 3-2.
A member of the first Connacht team to win the Interprovincial title in 1967, he was described by Christy O’Connor Snr as “a pure natural” and was selected to represent Ireland against Sweden in Rosses Point.
With his late wife Kathleen, who passed away in 2014, they had four children, Marion, Mairtín, Kate and Tom Jnr.
A lover of Irish music, he will be greatly missed for his warm heart, his big smile, his great sense of humour and wit.