By Daniel McConnell
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has today led tributes to the "golfing great" Christy O'Connor Junior, who has passed away.
In a statement released a short time ago, Mr Kenny extended his condolences to the late golfing legend's family.
Very sad to hear of the passing of Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr. Deepest sympathies to his wife Ann, daughter Ann and son Nigel.— Enda Kenny (@EndaKennyTD) January 6, 2016
"No one will ever forget Christy O'Connor's two iron from the middle of the 18th fairway at the Belfry which retained the 1989 Ryder Cup for Team Europe. It is an image that will remain fixed forever in the minds of all Irish golf and sporting fans," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach spoke warmly of his personal interactions with O'Connor and said his premature passing will be a source of great sadness to many Irish people and all golfing fans in Ireland and across Europe.
O'Connor was a multiple winner on the European, Senior and Champions Tours and he shot a then record first round of 64 during the British Open in 1985.
"There's no doubt however that his crowning glory was that famous Ryder Cup moment and a raft of other Irish golfers then followed in his footsteps to Ryder Cup greatness. Like his uncle, he was a trailblazer on the European Tour and an example to many aspiring golfers around the country," he said.
Mr Kenny also referenced the golfer's late son Darren, who died in tragic circumstances in 1998.
"I want to convey to his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann my sincere condolences. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis," Mr Kenny said.
Mr Kenny's Mayo colleague and Minister for Sport Michael Ring added his voice to the tributes paid to Christy junior.
“Christy O’Connor Jnr was one of Ireland’s finest golfers and sportsmen. He contributed so much to sport in Ireland and was a role model for many Irish golfers," he said.
"He will be fondly remembered for his wonderful contribution to Europe’s victory in the 1989 Ryder Cup at the Belfry and in particular his stunning approach shot to the 18th which sealed the win for Europe. Christy was a very talented golfer and everyone involved in Irish sport will be saddened at the news of his passing today.”
RIP Christy O' Connor Jr. I'm shocked & gutted by this sad news. A true gent on & off the golf course.— Eamonn Coghlan (@EamonnCoghlan1) January 6, 2016
Tributes were also paid from fans around the golfer and beyond.
Can't say I knew Christy O'Connor jr well but spoke to him on many occasions and always found him to be a mix of pleasant and interesting— Oisin Langan (@oisinlangan) January 6, 2016
Very sad news about Christy O'Connor Jr, remember that Ryder Cup win over Couples like it was yesterday— Ian McCullough (@IanMac08) January 6, 2016
R.I.P. to the first BIG Irish LEGEND in Golf Christy O’Connor Jnr ⛳️😇January 6, 2016
The years starts, unfortunately, with the sad news of the passing of Christy O'Connor, Jr. who died in Spain at the age of 67.— ByTheMinute Golf (@ByTheMinGolf) January 6, 2016
Ireland and the world has lost a great sportsman with the untimely death of the great Christy O'Connor Jr. at the age of 67.— Lansdowne FC (@LansdowneFC) January 6, 2016