May 17, 2016
“It’s Himself” – Christy O’Connor Senior
He walked the fairways like an old gunslinger, the hunched shoulders slightly tilted down to the right from the million or so balls he had hit on the hard packed sand on Bundoran beach. The bulge of the 40 Sweet Afton carried in his right pocket, were always casually brushed to the side before putting with that rounded stroke that was forever fragile.
He was completely fearless the way he played and totally feared, like the bull McCabe, by those who played against him. He played golf majestically with a beautifully full rhythmic swing that was deceptively powerful. He slapped the ball with contempt daring it not to do as he had commanded. It seldom did.
His skill to manufacture shots was matched only by his imagination that was honed against Mother Nature on the wild West Coast. The rawness of his talent was the envy of his peers and a study for students of the game from the next generation like Crenshaw and Seve.
I remember well being at Royal Dublin for the Carroll’s Irish Open on that famous day when Eric Browne was popping champagne on the balcony of the Clubhouse overlooking the Bull Island links with an unassailable lead. There was a huge roar from out the course, he turned and looked around the room with his bushy eyebrows raised; “It’s Himself” somebody finally said and Eric put down the Champagne. He knew instinctively what was coming. Christy finished 2,3,3 – eagle, birdie, eagle to beat him.
They were hard men during hard times where no quarter was asked or given. Eric congratulated Christy with a handshake and a smile and later I’m sure had a whisky or two with him!
My father, a true champion in his own right, was also to taste defeat from the only man he knew could better him at home. Christy shot 66 in the final round of the Masters at Portmarnock to deprive him of winning the tournament as an Amateur. The only man he feared going out that last day was Christy – and when the cheers echoed over the course early in the round he knew his fate.
Christy was generous in his twilight years on Tour when Des, myself, John O’Leary, Eamon and Christy Jnr. were out there trying to emulate his feats. He tried to help us all and did.
His life was dedicated to providing for his beautiful wife Mary and their children. It never dawned on him to risk chasing fame and fortune in the USA at the expense of his responsibilities at home.
He will be fondly remembered by many of the greats in this game as one of the finest ball strikers and magnificent shotmakers that ever lived.