Former Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr dies at 67

Christy O'Connor Jnr played in two Ryder Cups, the first for Great Britain & Ireland and then for Europe after the event was expanded (Picture: Getty Images).
Christy O'Connor Jnr played in two Ryder Cups, the first for Great Britain & Ireland and then for Europe after the event was expanded (Picture: Getty Images).

CHRISTY O’Connor Jnr, a former Ryder Cup player and European Tour and Senior Tour veteran, has died aged 67.

The Galway native passed away in his sleep while on holiday in Tenerife. He is survived by his wife Ann, daughter Ann and son Nigel.

O’Connor Jnr is best known for hitting one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history – a two-iron approach to the 18th green at The Belfry in 1989 which came to rest four feet from the hole, helping Tony Jacklin’s team retain the cup courtesy of a 14-14 tie.

That was the first of two appearances in golf’s most famous team event, having also represented Great Britain & Ireland in 1975 following the most successful of his 28 seasons playing on the European Tour, spanning three decades.

The nephew of another famous Irish golfer, Christy O’Connor, two of his four European Tour victories came that season, the second of which was a glorious homecoming at the Irish Open, and he later added two more titles – the latter in the 1992 British Masters.

From the European Tour’s inception in 1972, he did not finish outside the top 100 in the Order of Merit in his first 21 seasons, and that class and longevity extended into his Senior Tour career.

In his maiden campaign in the over-50s ranks, O’Connor Jnr stormed to a three-shot victory in the 1999 Senior Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club, before returning to Northern Ireland a year later to successfully defend the title at Royal County Down.

He also lifted two titles on the Champions Tour in America in 1999, and his success did not halt after hanging up his clubs.

O’Connor Jnr latterly forged an extremely successful career as a golf course designer, with Shane Lowry’s home golf course Esker Hills, former Irish Open venue Fota Island and recent host of the Challenge Tour’s Irish Challenge, Mount Wolseley – where he played in the pro-am last October – among the lay-outs in his portfolio.