Open main menu

Christy O'Connor Jnr (born Christopher O'Connor; 19 August 1948 – 6 January 2016) was an Irish professional golfer.[2] He best known for defeating American Fred Couples at the 1989 Ryder Cup, helping Europe secure the trophy.

Christy O'Connor Jnr
Christy O'Connor.JPG
O'Connor in 2010
Personal information
NicknameJunior
Born(1948-08-19)19 August 1948
County Galway, Ireland
Died6 January 2016(2016-01-06) (aged 67)
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)[1]
Weight86 kg (190 lb; 13.5 st)[1]
Nationality Ireland
SpouseAnn[1]
Career
Turned professional1967
Former tour(s)European Tour
European Seniors Tour
Champions Tour
Professional wins17
Number of wins by tour
European Tour4
PGA Tour Champions2
European Senior Tour2
Other9
Best results in major championships
Masters TournamentCUT: 1977
PGA ChampionshipDNP
U.S. OpenDNP
The Open ChampionshipT3: 1985

Contents

Early lifeEdit

O'Connor was born in Knocknacarra, Ireland in 1948. Knocknacarra is a village in Salthill that is within County Galway. He was the son of Elizabeth (née Noone) and John O'Connor. The family farmed cattle and pigs near a golf club.[1]

O'Connor was not born with the "Junior" suffix. Rather, it was added to his name after he turned pro in the 1970s to distinguish him from his uncle Christy O'Connor, also a well-known professional golfer. (A "Senior" suffix was added to the elder Christy O'Connor's name too.)[3][4]

CareerEdit

O'Connor turned professional in 1967. He played on the European circuit until the European Tour was founded in 1972. It took him a few years to find his footing but in 1975 he won two tournaments and finished 7th on the Order of Merit. His second victory of the year at the Carroll's Irish Open was particularly memorable. O'Connor became only the second Irishman to win his national open, the first since the 1940s. His good play earned him his first Ryder Cup appearance that year. The following year O'Connor would contend at the Open Championship for the first time. He opened with the co-lead with Seve Ballesteros, shooting an first round 69 (−3), before falling out of contention with a 73 and 75. He closed, however, with a respectable one-under round to finish in the top 5. O'Connor would finish in the top 30 of the Order of Merit for the third straight year.[5] This good play helped O'Connor earn an invitation to play in the Masters for the only time as well.

Despite all of this success in his late 20s, O'Connor did not immediately progress into one of the stars of the European golfing scene. While young pros like Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, and Bernhard Langer were taking the European Tour by storm O'Connor was in the background during these years. In a five season span, between 1977 and 1981, he recorded only four tops-10s and never finished better than 49th on the Order of Merit.[5]

The 1982 season was a return to form. Though he only recorded two top-10s, he finished 40th on the Order of Merit and had his lowest scoring average ever.[5] The next two seasons were similarly solid, with a number of top-10s, similar Order of Merit ranking, and improved scoring average every year.[5]

Until his Ryder Cup heroics, O'Connor may be best known to international audiences for his performance at the 1985 Open Championship. He opened with an 64 (−6), taking an astonishing four stroke lead after the first round. He came back to the field with a second round 76 but was still in mix until the last day. He played with champion Sandy Lyle in the fourth round and finished only two shots back, placing T-3. He would record an additional five top-10s that year and finish 12th on the Order of Merit, easily his best in a decade.

He would build on this success, finishing in the top 30 of the Order of Merit every year, until winning the 1989 Jersey Open. He defeated Englishman Denis Durnian in a playoff. It was his first victory in 14 years, the longest gap between European Tour victories at the time.[6] This victory helped him earn membership for the 1989 Ryder Cup team.

Despite his recent good play he was criticized by many in the media for being selected.[7] He was not one of the nine automatic picks for the team; he was a captain's pick. He had the worst world ranking (#71) of anyone on either team. Early in the event, O'Connor confirmed these suspicions by losing his only team match on the second day of the event. He wound up facing Fred Couples in Sunday singles play. This match would define O'Connor's career. Couples was a rising star for the American team who, only a few years later, would be ranked #1 in the world. Some members of the British press referred to O'Connor as Europe's "weak link" entering the match.[2] O'Connor, however, played evenly against Couples as the match went down to the last hole. On the 18th, the long-hitting Couples hit a perfect drive, cutting the dogleg and requiring only a 9-iron into the green. O'Connor hit a solid drive down the middle of the fairway but, unable to cut the dogleg, required much more distance to reach the green. He then hit a perfect 2-iron over a pond that skipped to within 4 feet. Couples, rattled, blew his 9-iron shot over the green and failed to get up and down. He conceded the match to O'Connor. His good play was indispensable as his teammates did not play that well on the last day and only barely retained the cup with a 14-14 tie.

As the 1990s approached, O'Connor was hitting his early 40s, around the time that many pro golfer's games decline. O'Connor played relatively well for a few years however. He would finish in the top 75 of the Order of Merit between 1990 and 1992, culminating with his victory at the 1992 British Masters. He hit several remarkable recovery shots from behind trees during the last round which he would taking advantage of, making equally remarkable birdies.[8] The victory qualified him for the NEC World Series of Golf, a prestigious winners-only event in America.[9]

O'Connor's would no longer remain competitive on the regular tour shortly after his win. He would not finish in the top 100 of the Order of Merit again after the 1992 season. He would, however, play very well for his first two seasons as a senior. Despite rarely playing in the United States during the heart of his career, he decided to join the Senior PGA TOUR in 1999. He would play very well, playing full-time in 1999 and 2000, winning two events and earning over a million dollars.[9] He would also play sporadically on the European Seniors Tour,[5] winning the Senior British Open twice in back-to-back years.

Personal lifeEdit

O'Connor was married to Ann. He had three children, Nigel, Ann, and Darren. His son Darren died in a car accident when he was 17 years old.[10]

O'Connor was a supporter of the Special Olympics.[11] O'Connor was also active in golf course design, being involved in the design of at least 18 courses in Ireland, and many more abroad.[12]

O'Connor died whilst on holiday with his wife Ann on 6 January 2016 in Tenerife, Canary Islands.[13][14][15]

Professional wins (17)Edit

European Tour wins (4)Edit

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner-up
1 14 Jun 1975 Martini International −5 (71-68-70-70=279) Shared title with   Ian Stanley
2 31 Aug 1975 Carroll's Irish Open −21 (66-70-69-70=275) 1 stroke   Harry Bannerman
3 9 Apr 1989 Jersey Open −3 (73-70-66-72=281) Playoff   Denis Durnian
4 31 May 1992 Dunhill British Masters −18 (71-67-66-66=270) Playoff   Tony Johnstone

[16]

European Tour playoff record (2–2)

No. Year Tournament Opponent(s) Result
1 1972 Penfold-Bournemouth Tournament   Peter Oosterhuis Lost to birdie on first extra hole
2 1986 Bell's Scottish Open   Ian Baker-Finch,   David Feherty Feherty won with birdie on second extra hole
3 1989 Jersey Open   Denis Durnian Won with par on first extra hole
4 1992 Dunhill British Masters   Tony Johnstone Won with birdie on first extra hole

Other wins (9)Edit

European Seniors Tour wins (2)Edit

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner-up
1 25 Jul 1999 Senior British Open −6 (76-69-68-69=282) 3 strokes   John Bland
2 30 Jul 2000 Senior British Open −9 (69-68-70-68=275) 2 strokes   John Bland

Senior PGA Tour wins (2)Edit

No. Date Tournament Winning score Margin of
victory
Runner(s)-up
1 4 Jul 1999 State Farm Senior Classic −18 (65-66-67=198) 1 stroke   Bruce Fleisher
2 15 Aug 1999 Foremost Insurance Championship −11 (69-68-68=205) 4 strokes   George Archer,   John Jacobs,
  Jim Thorpe

Results in major championshipsEdit

 
O'Connor in 1985
Tournament 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979
Masters Tournament CUT
The Open Championship CUT T24 T47 T5 T52 CUT
Tournament 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989
The Open Championship CUT CUT T8 CUT T3 T11 CUT CUT T49
Tournament 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
The Open Championship T25 T32 T39 T60 T60

Note: O'Connor only played in the Masters Tournament and The Open Championship.

  Top 10
  Did not play

CUT = missed the half-way cut (3rd round cut in 1984 Open Championship)
"T" indicates a tie for a place

Team appearancesEdit

Source:[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e "Christy O'Connor Jnr – Bio". PGA European Tour. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b Mason, Peter (7 January 2016). "Christy O'Connor Jnr obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Christy O'Connor Jnr dies suddenly aged 67". Irish Times. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  4. ^ "Christy O'Connor dies, aged 67". Sporting Life. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Christy O'Connor Jnr – Record". PGA European Tour. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  6. ^ "Biggest Gap Between European Tour Victories". European Tour. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  7. ^ Pye, Steven (6 January 2016). "How Christy O'Connor Jr became Europe's hero at the 1989 Ryder Cup". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  8. ^ Stevens, Paul (4 March 2019). "Footage of Christy from the 1992 British Masters". Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  9. ^ a b "Christy O'Connor – Profile". PGA Tour. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  10. ^ O'Regan, Mark; Kelly, Louise (12 January 2016). "'For Christy Jnr, as for his son Darren, the end came suddenly and too soon' - huge crowd attends funeral of golfing legend". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Tributes flow in for Christy O'Connor Jnr". Irish Echo. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  12. ^ "Christy O'Connor Junior passes away". RTÉ. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  13. ^ Kelly, Liam (6 January 2016). "'The saddest day in Irish golf' - legend Christy O'Connor Jnr passes away at just 67". Irish Independent. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  14. ^ McConnell, Daniel (6 January 2016). "Tributes pour in for 'golfing great' Christy O'Connor Jnr". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  15. ^ "Ireland's Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jr dies aged 67". The Guardian. Press Association. 6 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Christy O'Connor Jnr – Professional wins". PGA European Tour. Retrieved 10 January 2016.

External linksEdit