Christy O'Conner Snr

Christy O'Conner Snr (10 Ryder Cup's)

1924 - 2016

Patrick Christopher "Christy" O'Connor (21 December 1924 – 14 May 2016) was an Irish professional golfer. He was one of the leading golfers on the British and Irish circuit from the mid-1950s.

O'Connor won over 20 important British and Irish tournaments and finished in the top 10 in the Open Championship on 10 occasions. Later he had considerable success in seniors events, twice winning the World Senior Championship. In team events he played in 10 successive Ryder Cup matches and played in 15 Canada Cup/World Cup matches for Ireland, winning the Canada Cup in 1958 in partnership with Harry Bradshaw.

Born in Knocknacarra, Galway in 1924, O'Connor caught his first glimpse of golf at the nearby Galway Golf Club, and from the age of 10 spent most of his spare time there. His foray into professional golf began with caddying, first at Galway and then over at Tuam Golf Club. He turned professional in 1951, with Tuam members funding his first tournament at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, Antrim that same year. His 19th-place finish garnered an membership invitation from Bundoran Golf Club in Donegal, which he accepted.[1]

O'Connor first professional win was at the Swallow-Penfold Tournament held in 1955, the first £1,000 prize to be offered in British golf. He went on to win the 1956 and 1959 British Masters. In 1958, he helped Ireland to win the Canada Cup in Mexico City playing with Harry Bradshaw. A year later, he moved to Dublin and joined the The Royal Dublin Golf Club.[2] Throughout the 1960s he won at least one professional event during each year on the British Tour, a level of consistent success matched by very few other players. O'Connor rarely played professional tournaments outside Britain or Ireland, at one stage saying he forgoed playing at the US Masters in Augusta because he couldn't afford to participate.[3]

O'Connor only ever played at one of the four major championships, at the Open Championship, on 26 occasions between 1951 and 1979. His best performance came at the 1965 Open Championship where O'Connor tied for second place with Brian Huggett, behind five-time winner Peter Thomson.[4] O'Connor played in every Ryder Cup from 1955 to 1973, setting a record of ten appearances in the event which stood until it was surpassed by Nick Faldo in 1997. He was Irish professional champion on ten occasions, including in 1978 (when he was 53), and was twice (1961 and 1962) recipient of the Vardon Trophy for leading the British Tour's Order of Merit.[5]

In the 1966 Carroll's International at Royal Dublin, O'Connor finished 2-3-3 (eagle-birdie-eagle) to win the tournament by 2 strokes. At the par-4 16th he drove the green and holed a 20-foot putt. He then holed a 12-foot putt at the 17th and, at the par-5 18th, hit a 3-iron to 8 feet and holed the putt.[6] A plaque by the 16th tee commemorates the achievement. In 1970, he won the John Player Classic,[7] at that time its £25,000 first prize was the richest offered in golf (in those days, even the British Open champion received just a little over £5,000), it made him that season's leading money-winner, although not Order of Merit leader, which was decided by a points system not directly related to prize money.

Later in his career, O'Connor became the leading "senior" (over-50s) professional player of his day, just before the lucrative U.S.-based Senior PGA Tour, now known as the PGA Tour Champions, took off. He won the PGA Seniors Championship six times and the World Senior Championship in 1976 and 1977. O'Connor was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009 in the Veterans category.[8]

O'Connor met his wife, Mary Collins, in Donegal while he was a member of Bundoran Golf Club. They married in 1954 and had six children together.[1] During his early career he was known simply as Christy O'Connor, but his nephew of the same name also became a prominent golfer, and since that time they have been referred to as Christy O'Connor Senior and Christy O'Connor Junior, respectively. He was known as "Himself" among his golfing peers.[9] He died at the age of 91 in Mater Hospital, on 14 May 2016.[10]