Irish golfing legend Christy O’Connor Junior has been remembered as one in a million at his funeral.
Thousands of mourners at Galway Cathedral were told he has been reunited with his son Darren, who died in a road accident in 1998 aged 17.
The 67-year-old, best remembered for playing a lead role in Europe’s Ryder Cup win in 1989, had been on holiday in Tenerife when he died in his sleep on Wednesday January 6.
The service was led by Father Michael Kelly, a close family friend, who noted the flood of tributes when news broke of his death and the faith he retained following his son’s untimely death.
“He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again – not quite so soon, I imagine,” he said.
“He prayed to him and for him and was convinced that Darren came to his assistance more than once.”
Fellow Irish golfer Eamonn Darcy and John Mulholland, former mayor of Galway and a close friend of O’Connor, gave personal reflections on his life ahead of the Mass.
Among the gifts presented were the Ryder Cup Trophy marking O’Connor’s triumph at The Belfry in 1989 when he hit one of the most famous shots in golfing lore.
The Galway native, written off by large sections of the press at the time, fired a stunning two iron from more than 200 yards to within feet of the hole to beat Fred Couples and help Europe retain the trophy.
Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley attended, along with Sam Torrance.
“I think it’s a sad day for Ireland,” McGinley said.
“He was a character, much loved, and I’ll miss the fun.”
He added: “He was a big part of Ryder Cup history and folklore as we know. It’s nice to be able to bring it here.
“He showed me how to have fun, that’s the thing I’ll remember most about Christy.”
In his homily Fr Kelly recalled the glowing tributes over the last week and said it sounded like a cause for canonisation.
“Tributes to the golfer – one of our greatest; to the family man, who showed enormous pride in his family and never failed to acknowledge them when celebrating his achievements. Tributes to a friend – and everybody felt they were one of them,” the priest said.
“There were tributes to the fundraiser, who had raised huge amounts for worthy charities down through the years – from missionaries in Africa to the Galway Hospice Foundation last July.
“The famous two iron alone was a powerful fundraising weapon. They were all tributes to ’a great human being’, whom we had the privilege to be associated with in one way or another. He was a proud Galway man, an Irishman and a European. His leaving has left our world a poorer place. He was one in a million.”
O’Connor Jnr is survived by his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann.
The golfer, who had been awarded the freedom of his native city and an honorary degree at NUI Galway, will be buried in Rahoon cemetery.