Tributes to the late Christy O'Connor Junior have gushed from the great and the good in the wake of his untimely death on Wednesday.
But few are as revealing and insightful about his genial personality than this one - from the Irish developer and his business partner who commissioned O'Connor to design a golf course bearing his name at the Amendoeira Golf Resort in the Algarve.
Too often golfers put their name and little else into a course development. Not so Christy O'Connor Junior, as Drogheda man, Gerry Fagan - the co-founder of Oceanico Developments in Portugal with partner Simon Burgess - revealed Thursday.
“We were honoured that Christy agreed to design one of our golf courses in Portugal and touched that upon its completion, he agreed that it become known as the "O’Connor Junior Course" at our Amendoeira Golf Resort.
“As in every task he undertook, Christy was not content with managing from afar. He worked tirelessly with the construction team during all phases of the project and was never happier than when sat on a bulldozer working with the operators to ensure that his design vision was translated into reality.
"It is a testimony to his skill, intelligence and deep understanding of the game, honed by many miles walked upon some of the world’s greatest golf courses, that Christy was able to create something that has brought immeasurable pleasure to thousands of golfers who would acknowledge they own not a fraction of the skill possessed by one of Ireland’s greater golfers.
"Christy had that rare touch and warmth to befriend prince and pauper alike. He unfailingly took time to speak with everyone, no matter their background, nationality, colour, wealth, age, and in the case of golfers, their handicap. It mattered not to him their golfing ability, or even if they had never picked up a club, he just wanted everyone to experience a little of the fun that life and his chosen game had brought to him."
Gerry Fagan added: "Long after his O’Connor Jnr course was opened in Portugal, Christy would often arrive, typically unannounced and bearing a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine for the office staff who he had worked with in years gone by. After a round of golf with a friend or two he would sit himself in the clubhouse with a bottle of his beloved Portuguese red wine, telling stories and recalling happy days he’d enjoyed in many corners of the world.
"Not a man to announce himself with any expectation of recognition, he would often wander up to a group of players and quietly ask them if they’d enjoyed their game without even mentioning that he was the artist who had created the masterpiece upon which they had spent the last few hours.
"Christy was a man for whom his family meant everything. He set enormous store in the support of his wife, Ann, and their son Nigel and their daughter Ann. Whilst his profession took him to all corners of the world, he was never happier than when returning to his homeland and the warmth that its people rightly bestowed upon him.
"Now we must mourn the passing of someone who brought pleasure to millions through his exploits as a golfer, to millions more who have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy the legacy of his designs for decades to come, and to the thousands of people who met him, spent time with him and are privileged to have called him a friend.
"Christy, you were unique. God bless you and thank you."
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