Irish great Christy O'Connor senior dies, aged 91

Reuters News
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Posted: May 14, 2016 1:07 PM

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Christy O'Connor senior, one of the towering figures of European golf, left Irish sport in mourning when he died on Saturday at the age of 91.

From the 1950s through to the 1980s, when he was still challenging for big titles in his 50s, the farmer's son from Knocknacarra in County Galway earned global renown.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny led the tributes.

"Christy O'Connor senior was known as 'Himself' and always was himself, a wonderful man who left an indelible mark on professional golf and the sporting world," a statement from Kenny said.

"He was a larger than life character and the owner of the best pair of wrists in the game.

"He was a master of touch and feel on the greens and his brilliant golf was iconic for so many people even before television brought tournaments into every home," added Kenny.

O'Connor won the 1958 World Cup of golf, in those days known as the Canada Cup, for Ireland with Harry Bradshaw and he was also a Ryder Cup stalwart, his record of competing in 10 matches only being surpassed by Nick Faldo in 1997.

Ten times O'Connor recorded a top-10 finish at the British Open and the closest he came to winning a major was when he was runner-up to Australian Peter Thomson in the 1965 edition at Royal Birkdale.

O'Connor, who won 24 European Tour titles and many other unsanctioned events, was the uncle of Christy O'Connor junior, another Irish Ryder Cup hero who died in January aged 67.

"Christy was in many ways the father of Irish golf and his death, so soon after that of his nephew Christy junior, means Ireland has lost two Ryder Cup legends in the space of five months," said European captain Darren Clarke.

"Christy senior was a golf icon and a wonderful person as well. He did so much for the game he graced for many years while the Ryder Cup to some extent is what it is today because of his passion for it.

"Irish golf in particular and golf in general has lost one of its greatest heroes," added Northern Irishman Clarke.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Tony Jimenez)