The main event?

TIFFS and spats between golfing superstars like Harrington and Goosen are nothing new. Sometimes, in fact, they can go a little further than that, as Christy O’Connor Senior admits in a particularly revealing chapter in his autobiography.

It became known as the Stoke Poges black-eye affair. “An exchange of opinions after the second round of the Agfa Gevaert tournament in 1968 ended up with me flat on my back in the rose bushes fronting the austere clubhouse,” he recalled.

O’Connor and Englishman Harry Weetman were good friends having been long standing Ryder Cup teammates, so Christy felt it was “perfectly natural” to have a drink with Freda Weetman having completed his day’s labour. Harry finished an hour or so later and the three then visited a couple of hospitality tents before returning to the clubhouse.

“Harry was steamed up and made an accusation that I had enticed Freda to go drinking,” Christy recalled. “He was quite out of order as it was Freda who invited me to have a drink in the first instance. In his mood, however, he could not be pacified. ’I’ve got a good mind to punch you,’ he declared.

“One aggressive word borrowed another and next thing we were out on the steps of the clubhouse. Smack! Harry, a big muscular man, biffed me flush in the face. I was knocked to the ground. When I got to my feet, I gasped: ‘Harry, if that makes you feel good, then hit me again.’ Wham! I was sent tumbling into the flower beds. I did not raise a fist. Each time he hit me, I had my hands inside the pockets of my trenchcoat.”

The matter made the front pages of the newspapers and was aired on television with the inevitable outcome of a £50 fine for both men. It was sad that things should have come to such a pass between team-mates on the famous, winning British & Irish Ryder Cup team of 1957 although they subsequently made it up and Christy and Mary O’Connor were as saddened as anyone when they heard of the death of Weetman in a car crash in 1972.

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