Bundoran's great link to late Christy O'Connor

Bundoran's great link to late Christy O'Connor
Peter Campbell sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

The death of Christy O'Connor Snr. at the weekend removes a great golfing link with Bundoran that has endured for seven generations.

The Galway native was 91 and is remembered throughout the golfing world for his great ability which saw him play on ten consecutive Ryder Cup teams.

A young Christy O'Connor came to Bundoran as a Professional in 1951 and remained there until 1957. During that time he won his first professional tournament and was also picked for his first Ryder Cup appearance.

Even after departing Bundoran, he remained in love with the place and continued to visit whenever he was in the area.

His golfing ability was always a talking point among members, especially the older club players, who would have watched him compete in Pro-Ams and Open competitions.

Speaking this week to the Donegal Democrat, current Professional at Bundoran, David Robinson, said that Christy was always a friend of the club.

"He always called in to Bundoran when he was in this part of the country, going to tournaments in Portrush or Portstewart," said current Golf Professional at Bundoran, David Robinson.

"I would have played some practice rounds with him when he was here for Pro-Ams. He had an unbelievable pair of hands. Just to watch him," said Robinson.

"His record speaks for it self. He was also a really nice man. I think he liked this part of the country and was always willing to give advice," he said.

One of the senior members of the club at the present and a former Club Professional, Frankie McGloin, is well placed to remember Christy.

"I played with him, both in Bundoran and in tournaments outside Bundoran. He was a very generous person, never wanting to take the limelight. He was also very encouraging for a young pro," said Frankie McGloin, who became Professional at Bundoran a few years after Christy left in 1957.

"It was Petie Clancy and Sean McGonigle, a dentist in Ballyshannon, who were responsible for Christy coming to Bundoran. I was a caddy then and just watching him was different. We didn't know how good he was," said McGloin, who recalled an incident one day when Christy was practicing just off the 6th green, hitting balls to the 7th, which underlines the meticulous preparation which O'Connor put in during his time at the seaside course.

"A priest, Fr. Finnegan, came along and stopped to watch and told Christy he was hitting great shots, but Christy said they weren't the shots he was trying to hit. He was trying to bring the ball in with a slice to get the ball to land in the right spot. When he was practicing, it was as if he was doing an honours paper," said McGloin.

While in Bundoran, Frankie said that people like Mickey Doherty and others had helped to send Christy to tournaments in England. "In those days there was no sponsorship. He always had a soft spot for Bundoran and it was great for Bundoran that he was selected on the Ryder Cup team while he was still Pro at the club.

"He was a great asset to Bundoran and we have never maximised his involvement in the club," said McGloin.

After Christy left Bundoran, Joe Hunter from Portstewart became Pro and Frankie became his assistant, taking over in 1960.

Frankie recalled one lovely moment when playing in a fourball with Christy along with Mickey Doherty and Dr. Brown. "I was playing particularly well that day and Christy turned to me at the 12th and said 'You're playing well today Mac. You'll be second'."

"He will be fondly remembered in Bundoran. He always felt that the 15th was the best hole on the Bundoran course and while others would have wondered why, he always talked about the green being like a pig's back; that unless you landed the ball in the right place it would run off," said McGloin.

Among the people who paid tribute to O'Connor was BBC commentator, Peter Alliss, who had partnered Christy in Ryder Cups and said he "one of Ireland's finest golfers".

"I was his Ryder Cup partner for many years; we used to joke that nobody else would play with us," said Alliss.

"He was a wonderful partner and a beautiful golfer. We weren't renowned for being brilliant, consistent putters, but when we were on our day we could put in a few. We both hit the ball well - Christy was just a joy to play with. He really was a genius of the sport and was also a lovely man. He could be a bit naughty at times and he did like to take a jar, or two, or eight. But he was always a great chum," said Alliss.