Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor junior dies aged 67

Wed Jan 6, 2016 10:27am EST
 
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(Reuters) - Irish golfer Christy O'Connor Junior, who helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry with the shot of his life in 1989 and won four European Tour titles, has died in Spain at the age of 67.

"We've lost a true Irishman, character and golfer - Christy O Connor jnr RIP," compatriot Paul McGinley, whose last hole putt at The Belfry won the Ryder Cup for Europe in 2002, said on Twitter.

The high point of O'Connor's career came in the 1989 Ryder Cup when a stunning pressurized two-iron approach at the last hole set up a surprise singles win over future world number one Fred Couples which combined helped Europe to a 14-14 tie and enabled them to retain the trophy.

It was his only victory in his two Cup appearances but he also captured two Senior British Open titles and earned victories on the Champions Tour in the U.S.

O'Connor Junior, who is the nephew of 91-year-old Ryder Cup stalwart Christy O'Connor Senior, passed away in his sleep while on holiday with his wife Ann in Tenerife.

"No one will ever forget Christy O'Connor's two-iron from the middle of the 18th fairway at the Belfry which retained the 1989 Ryder Cup for Team Europe," Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement, reflecting the folk-memory that has elevated O'Connor's victory into the decisive moment, which actually belonged to Spaniard Jose Maria Canizares.

"It is an image that will remain fixed forever in the minds of all Irish golf and sporting fans."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Mitch Phillips)