O’Connor Snr accorded life membership of European Tour

CHRISTY O’CONNOR Snr has been accorded honorary life membership of the European Tour.

O'Connor, who celebrated his 80th birthday on December 21, 2004, is one of the most gifted players ever to grace the game and one of the greatest sporting stars Ireland has produced.

Ten successive Ryder Cup matches and a host of tournament victories testify to what O'Connor achieved on the golf course. He had a swing which attracted plaudits around the world.

The great Lee Trevino was once moved to say of him: "To me only three players have looked entirely natural swinging a golf club Christy, Roberto de Vicenzo and Neil Coles. Christy flows through the ball like fine wine."

O'Connor won the first £1,000 cheque in European golf in 1955 and in 1970 won the richest prize in world golf when he captured £25,000 for winning the John Player Trophy.

"I'm delighted to be made an honorary life member," said Christy Snr.

"We had a lot of special days but the highlights for me were winning the Ryder Cup in 1957 and the World Cup in 1958.

"Also playing on the Tour outside Ireland for the first time in 1953 when I played the great Sir Henry Cotton in the semi-final of the Swallow Penfold Tournament and he beat me on the 23rd. But it was a huge thrill to take Henry that far and we became close friends."

He shares the honour with John Panton, 88, who turned professional 70 years ago in 1935. During an extraordinary playing career he represented Great Britain and Ireland in three Ryder Cup matches in 1951, 1953 and 1961 and played 13 times for Scotland in the World Cup.

Among his career highlights were victories in the British Matchplay Championship in 1956 and, in 1967, he beat Sam Snead three and two in the final of the World Seniors Championship at Wallasey.

George O'Grady, executive director of the European Tour said: "Christy O'Connor has been an inspirational golfing figure in Ireland, as has John Panton in Scotland, and their contribution to the game across Europe cannot be underestimated. We offer our congratulations and appreciation of their achievements."

The election of O'Connor and Panton to honorary life membership brings the number of players given honorary life membership to 28.

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