Ken Brown pays tribute to ‘really good fella’ John O’Leary

Ken Brown pays tribute to ‘really good fella’ John O’Leary

The recent passing of golfer John O’Leary, 70, was marked with tributes from throughout the sport, but nobody encapsulated the affection for the former Irish Open champion as perfectly as his old friend and European Tour colleague Ken Brown.

Brown’s tweet was accompanied by a picture of the flamboyantly dressed and curly-mopped O’Leary resplendent in green-and-yellow trousers, splashing out of a sand trap. It hit all the right notes. Brown, a five-time Ryder Cupper and BBC commentator, expanded on the theme when the Irish Examiner spoke to him this week.

“John was a really good fella. He was playing the Tour when I first played (in 1976) and the Tour was in such a different place then than it is now, in so many different ways. We were decent golfers trying to hustle a living out of it and John was one of the first to sort of turn the corner and make it a bit more glamorous”, Brown said.

“Prior to that, really, it was club golfers (apart from Neil Coles, who had two jobs): three days of playing golf for a living, then back to their club on a Sunday. We broke away in the mid-70s and a few Australians came over, Jack Newton, Graham Marsh, and Ian Stanley; some South Africans, Harold Henning and Dale Hayes; players like that; and the whole tournament scene changed completely. There were some exciting personalities and John was certainly one of those. He and Sam Torrance had tales to tell, way beyond mine”, Brown said.

What Brown did have in common with O’Leary and Torrance was an Irish Open victory. He won it in 1978, fellow Scot Torrance did in 1981, and O’Leary, on home soil, a year later.

“When I won that year, at Portmarnock, John and I stood on the 18th tee, tied. I managed to hit the most miraculous par and he dropped a stroke. Seve was second with John, and I won it. I was only 21, so it was a massive moment in my career”, Brown said.

“There weren’t many people pulling for me: if it was either Seve or John O’Leary or Ken Brown, there wasn’t a lot of choice. The Irish Open was right at its zenith back then, 20,000 people a day coming over the fences, up through the beach, and if Seve was in town… The Carroll’s Irish Open was as big as The Open, as far as interest and crowds and excitement, and it was at Portmarnock, which is an absolute stunner of a course. The Irish Open is still one of the best tournaments on the Tour, but in those days, it would have gone Open, Irish Open, BMW PGA, or whatever it was called back then: the Colgate. They were the best three events”, he said.

- You can read the full interview with Ken Brown in tomorrow’’s Examiner Sport.

More on this topic

New Tiger Woods documentary to air on TV next monthNew Tiger Woods documentary to air on TV next month

Shot of a lifetime: Stunning photo captures International Space Station over Cork Golf ClubShot of a lifetime: Stunning photo captures International Space Station over Cork Golf Club

Wil Besseling edges out Connor Syme to claim victory in BMW Indoor InvitationalWil Besseling edges out Connor Syme to claim victory in BMW Indoor Invitational

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to meet again in Florida charity eventTiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to meet again in Florida charity event


More in this Section

Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo set for China return next weekManchester United striker Odion Ighalo set for China return next week

Halford hoping for double Guineas delightHalford hoping for double Guineas delight

Inter-county and club teams training in podsInter-county and club teams training in pods

Denis Hogan: 'I can’t imagine the summer without Galway'Denis Hogan: 'I can’t imagine the summer without Galway'


Lifestyle

The phrase “dupe”, short for duplicate, is used in online beauty communities to signify that a product is similar to a more expensive counterpart.The Skin Nerd: Products with star power, without the Hollywood price tag

Struggling to stick to your work routine at home? You’re not alone.10 tips for greater productivity working from home

Relaxing the rules at home has helped Karen Koster and her young family to get through lockdown, says Helen O'CallaghanEasy does it: Relaxing home rules the 'perfect tonic for kids'

Parents who homeschool must feel very confident of their choice these days, surely this global event will add to their number even after schools reopen. Their pioneering spirit isGet the Look: The eco-friendly beauty products you need to buy now

More From The Irish Examiner