Christy O'Connor Jnr - Golfer
Christy O’Connor Jnr will forever have a place in golfing history thanks to his famous two-iron shot at the 18th in The Belfry during the 1989 Ryder Cup, a shot that all but secured the trophy for the European team.
There are many golfing fans out there who would love to know what was going through the Irish golfing legend’s mind as he and Fred Couples walked down the fairway to the green that day.
But while Christy admits he has enjoyed reliving those great moments in his new book, ‘Christy: From Rough to Fair Ways’, recalling the moments leading up to it were just as satisfying.
The book charts his life from day one, describing his humble beginnings, leaving Galway to work in England for “three quid an hour” right up to the present day.
It has been an interesting journey for him “reliving a complete life” and recalling the time before he joined his uncle Christy Snr at the peak of his profession.
“Little did I ever think that my shot was going to count to win the Ryder Cup for Europe!” he recalls, 23 years later.
Although at times it was difficult to remember exact details, Christy did not consult others to fill in the blanks, preferring to tell the tale as he remembers it.
However some details are crystal clear and he, like most golfing fans, has “fantastic” memories of that career-defining day at the Belfry. He still spares a thought for his opponent that day, Fred Couples, whose best efforts were rendered redundant by Christy’s wonder-shot.
“The second shot – people think he shanked it – he didn’t at all. He missed the green by five yards.”
All the same, Christy admits the pressure to sink the putt would have been “immense” had Couples not been a little off.
“He left himself a virtually impossible putt, thank God! I always say ‘don’t wish them to miss’. You don’t have to wish them to hole, but don’t wish them to miss. You can only do what you can with your golf ball.”
In an effort to reveal as much as possible about Christy the man as opposed to Christy the golfer, he does not gloss over the low points in his life in his autobiography and is frank and honest about the “huge hole” left by his youngest son Darren’s tragic death, aged just 17, in a road traffic accident in 1998.
Recounting that harrowing time in his book was made easier, he says, by the fact that he and his family have always kept Darren in their lives since his passing.
“My family, we learned to do this: to speak to him, talk to him, ask him for favours, joke about him, joke with him. We do that nearly every day,” he says.
The book also details what he describes as wasted years, where he enjoyed himself “to the hilt”, to the detriment of his golfing game: “it took me a long time to get back but thank God I did.”
Despite having had considerable success on the Seniors’ Tour, Christy admits to being something of a fair-weather golfer nowadays, although he is still expected to put on a show even if he is only golfing with friends.
“People want to see you making birdies, they don’t want to see you just going out and hacking around,” he notes.
Nonetheless, golf remains at the fore of his life and course design is a passion, with 34 courses to his credit. Working with nature is something he relishes, but it’s work he takes seriously, remarking that “you can ruin a piece of land” with an ill-thought out design.
He feels that now is the right time to release an autobiography and admits being bemused by sports stars who write their life stories before their career is over. While he says that he may have a few additional chapters left in him yet, he feels that this story has a happy ending, noting that “it’s been a wonderful trip.”
Christy O’Connor Jnr will sign copies of his book at Clifden Bookshop at 4pm on Thursday, 6 December and in Eason’s, Shop Street at 3pm on Saturday, 15 December. ‘Christy: From Rough to Fair Ways’ is available from all good book stores.