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Published: 15:16 | 6/1/16

Christy O'Connor Jnr dies aged 67

Christy O'Connor Jnr has passed away at the age of 67.

A four-time winner on the European Tour, O'Connor hit the winning shot for Europe in the 1989 Ryder Cup at the Belfry when he got to within four feet of the hole with a superb two-iron approach shot to the 18th.

The Galway native turned professional in 1967 and over the course of his career he secured 17 professional wins, including the 1975 Carroll’s Irish Open and the British Masters in 1992, while he represented Ireland at the World Cup, the Alfred Dunhill Cup, the Double Diamond and the Hennessey Cup.

He finished in a tie for third at the 1985 Open Championship before he went on to claim back-to-back Seniors British Open titles in 1999 and 2000.

O'Connor designed many golf courses around Europe and in December last year he received the Golf Digest lifetime achievement award.

Paying tribute to O'Connor, Sports Minister Michael Ring said: "Christy was definitely one of the greatest sports people this country produced over many, many years.

"He represented our country with honour. Even his famous Ryder Cup putt aside, he was one of the leading lights in golf. He led the road for the likes of Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy and others.

"I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to his family and friends. On a personal note, there wasn’t a nicer person you could meet. Fame never went to his head.”

Tony Jacklin, the 1989 Ryder Cup captain, said: "It is very sad news. Looking back, it was very hard not to pick Christy for the 1985 Ryder Cup team but José Rivero had won on The Belfry that year so it was obviously a decision based purely on golf.

"But we were delighted to have him on the team in 1989 and I remember he was very excited when I told him.

"Obviously I followed him very closely down the last two holes at The Belfry in 1989 and I caught him before he teed off at the 18th. I had noticed on the previous hole that Fred’s (Couples) hands were not operating properly – he had missed a short putt – so I knew Christy had him.

"Christy hit a wonderful tee shot and the Fred pulled his, but because he was so long he cleared the water, leaving himself with an eight iron, while Christy had a two iron. I said to Christy, ‘come on, one more good swing for Ireland’ and of course he hit the shot of his lifetime. We couldn’t have retained it without him, no doubt.

"He had a great effect on the team room too. We had a great team unity and he was a big part of that.

"Obviously Christy played in the shadow of his uncle but he became a legend in his own right, especially in Ireland. He will also be remembered for his architecture and his name will live on for a long time to come.

"“My thoughts go out to his family. Of course, he endured the loss of his son and we will all be thinking about his wife Ann at this difficult time, no doubt about that."

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