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'Father of Irish golf' Christy O'Connor Sr was national treasure, funeral told

Published 17/05/2016

The coffin of Ryder Cup winning golfer Christy O'Connor Snr as it is taken from Galway Cathedral following his funeral
The coffin of Ryder Cup winning golfer Christy O'Connor Snr as it is taken from Galway Cathedral following his funeral

Christy O'Connor Senior was an Irish national treasure who took on golf's global giants and beat them, his funeral has heard.

He was also remembered as a devoted father, grandfather and husband as well as a dedicated fundraiser for good causes who enjoyed nothing more than a glass of wine in the company of his beloved wife Mary.

Hundreds of mourners packed into St John the Baptist church in Clontarf, overlooking Dublin Bay, for a moving farewell to the man known overseas as Himself but at home as the father of Irish golf.

The 10-times Ryder Cup challenger died at the weekend, aged 91, four months after his nephew, Christy Junior, died suddenly in Tenerife, aged 67.

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.

Among those bidding a final farewell were former winning Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, Des Smyth and countless everyday golfers in their manifold club colours and jackets from both the Republic and Northern Ireland.

Many swapped stories of his countless heyday heroics on the golf course.

Chief celebrant Fr Martin Hogan, who had visited O'Connor Sr at his nearby home every month over the last six years, said he remained full of vigour and spirit even as his physical health declined.

"There was great go about him," he said.

"When I was growing up, the name Christy O'Connor was synonymous with Irish golf.

"He was our national golfing treasure who could compete with the giants of golf from all around the world and beat many of them more than once.

"We were all very proud of him."

Fr Hogan told the congregation that O'Connor Sr's family meant the world to him.

"He lived for them and they were his life and, of course, Mary was the great light of his life."

A number of mementoes were brought to the altar as symbols of his remarkable life.

A family portrait was coupled with a photograph of O'Connor Sr at his Royal Dublin course along with golfing legends Bernard Langer, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros.

His Galway Lifetime Sports Star award was placed beside his coffin in tribute to his native county and where he met his wife of more than 60 years, along with a Galway cap and scarf.

One of his 10 Ryder Cup trophies was also brought to the altar along with a bottle of red wine as he "loved nothing better than a few glasses with dinner or while watching the television with Mary," the Mass was told.

Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were represented at the service by their aides de camp.

Chief mourners were O'Connor Snr's wife Mary, his sons Christopher and Peter and daughters Marguerite, Therese and Joan.

A fourth daughter, Anne-Marie, predeceased him.

Son Peter recalled the days before golfers got superstar treatment when all the family would be squeezed into the car to head for the Irish Open, stopping off for Mass along the way.

"Growing up in Blackheath Park with the greatest golfer in the world was very special," he said.

"Dad, we love you so much.

"You were my hero and the best dad in the world and we'll see you again some time."

Also paying tribute was golf writer Dermot Gilleece, who recounted O'Connor Sr's 30-year dedication to fundraising for sick children after being moved to tears by the plight of youngsters at a hospital in Dublin.

On a recent visit to him, he said O'Connor Sr told him that his wife had been "miraculous, unbelievable" in raising their children while he was often off playing at tournaments.

O'Connor Sr told him: "Maybe we didn't have the luxuries that today's footballers and top golfers have but we could live like ordinary human beings - which was all we ever wanted for each other."

O'Connor Sr was buried afterwards at St Fintan's Cemetery in Sutton.

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