PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Irish legend and former Ryder Cup mainstay Christy O’Connor, Sr. died Saturday at the age of 91.
O’Connor, known among his peers simply as “Himself,” won 44 professional tournaments during his career and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. His accolades included 10 top-10 finishes in the Open Championship, highlighted by a T-2 finish in 1965, as well as the Harry Vardon Trophy in both 1961 and 1962, awarded to the Order of Merit leader of the then-British Tour.
O’Connor received a lifetime membership to the European Tour in 2005, but his most notable contribution may have been his role in the formative years of the Ryder Cup. He played on 10 consecutive teams from 1955-1973, including Great Britain & Ireland’s 1957 win that marked the side’s first triumph in 24 years.
His longevity in the biennial matches was surpassed among Europeans only by Nick Faldo, who played on 11 different teams.
O’Connor’s death comes only months after the death of his nephew and fellow professional, Christy O’Connor, Jr., who passed away in January.
“Christy was in many ways the father of Irish golf and his death, so soon after that of his nephew Christy Jr., means that Ireland has lost two Ryder Cup legends in the span of five months,” Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke told the European Tour. “Christy Sr. was a golf icon and a wonderful person as well. He did so much for the game he graced for so 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.”
“My abiding memory is phoning him with George O’Grady to break the news that he’d been elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009, and he wouldn’t believe us,” Richard Hills, Ryder Cup director, added in a statement. “He said he’d only believe it if he saw it in writing, so I was dispatched to Royal Dublin to present him with a letter. As he read it, his face broke into a huge grin and he gave me a massive bear hug.”