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Ireland’s sad farewell to the greatest of them all

Christy O’Connor Snr - the “father of Irish golf” passes away

The death at 91 of Christy O’Connor Snr in the small hours of Saturday morning marks the end of an era in world golf and the loss of one of Ireland’s greatest ever sportsmen.

While he never attained the major championship glory that has come to so many of the modern Irish players, his achievements were ever bit as great and he leaves a huge mark on the history of the Irish and the world game.

He was also a modest man. “I still can’t believe it, and I really in my heart, I am a gentleman and I am absolutely stumped for words,” he said at Baltray in 2009 when he gave a press conference to mark the news that he had been voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. 

Asked the highlight of his career, he said: “You know, the highlight I think is meeting nice people. When you’re a professional golfer, you travel a good part of the world, and being as lucky as I have been the Tour and to be so successful, which was not bad, it is meeting people, really. That’s what I really appreciate.  It’s a gift. It’s great.”

Seve Ballesteros played with O’Connor early in his career and when he got home, he sought out his brother with excitement and said: “Manolo! Manolo! I have just watched a player with the most wonderful hands I have ever seen. His name is Christy O’Connor.”

The Galway man’s fame was such that he was simply referred to in Ireland as “Himself” promoting Peter Dobereiner of the Guardian and the Observer to pen an amusing piece on his pairing with Ballesteros in the Irish Open at Portmarnock in August 1980, famously referring to the protagonists as “Himself” and “Your Man”.

When at the Masters a few years ago, a few Irish reporters happened to meet Gary Player, who immediately asked after O’Connor.

Player gushed: “Christy Senior? What a man. He was bionic. I remember he was a man who would finish half a bottle of whiskey and go out and still beat you.

“He and Sam Snead were the two greatest natural players the world has ever seen.”

The Galway legend had 10 Top-10 finishes in the Open but he couldn’t hole enough putts to win the only major he ever played.

Player insisted: “If Christy O’Connor could have putted like me, he would have won 10 majors. Wristy Christy.

“Of course, he putted on crappy greens too. But Christy O’Connor was the best bad weather player of all time.”

May he rest in peace.

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