Darren Clarke leads the tributes to Irish golfing legend Christy O'Connor Snr

Christy O'Connor Snr (left) with fellow Ryder Cup player, Norman Drew 
Staff Reporter

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has led the tributes to the "father" of Irish golf, Christy O'Connor Sr, who has died at the age of 91.

O'Connor Sr, whose nephew and fellow professional golfer Christy O'Connor Jr died suddenly in January, played in 10 consecutive Ryder Cups between 1955 and 1973, a record eventually surpassed by Nick Faldo in 1997.

He won 23 titles on the British and Irish Tour - the precursor to the current European Tour - as well as winning a host of unsanctioned events and recording 10 top-10 finishes in the Open Championship, finishing as runner-up to Peter Thomson at Royal Birkdale in 1965.

Clarke said in a statement: "It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Christy O'Connor Snr.

"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 space of five months.

"Christy Snr 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."

Born in Knocknacarra in County Galway, O'Connor Sr was known in the golf world as "Himself" because of the way he embraced life.

Clarke's predecessor as captain, Paul McGinley, wrote on Twitter: "RIP Christy O Connor Snr - an inspiration and trailblazer for Irish success in golf throughout the world #himself."

And Shane Lowry, who is currently competing in the Players Championship in Sawgrass, wrote: "Sad to hear the passing of Christy O'Connor Snr. A legend of the game of golf both in our country and around the world. #RIP."

In 2009 O'Connor Sr became only the second Irishman to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, following Joe Carr two years earlier.

Ryder Cup director Richard Hills said: "Today we have lost not only one of the greatest Ryder Cup players the game has ever seen, but an incredible man.

"My abiding memory of Christy 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.

"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.

"The other thing that sticks out for me is how Seve (Ballesteros) used to watch him. When Seve, who as we all know was a genius of a player, first came out on tour in 1976, he would seek out Christy to watch him practise and watch his hands. Christy was built like a bull but he had incredible hands for golf.

"Christy did so much for the game of golf and his legacy will long live on. After the tragic, sudden death of his nephew, Christy O'Connor Jr, in January, golf has lost two of its greatest men.

"On behalf of everyone at the European Tour, our condolences go to the O'Connor family."

Iggy Ó Muircheartaigh, Chairman of the GUI's Board said: "I had the privilege of getting to know Christy Snr., and his family, when we at NUI Galway conferred honorary doctorates on him and on his nephew, the late Christy Jnr.

"Although I would always have admired him as the golfing legend he undoubtedly was, I came to realise that, perhaps more importantly, he was a perfect gentleman and a warm and friendly human being.  My sincere sympathy to all the O'Connors at this difficult time.  Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.”

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