Belfry Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr dies

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One of the biggest stars of Irish golf, Christy O'Connor Jnr, has died.

The European Tour said Wednesday that O'Connor died in his sleep while on holiday in Tenerife in Spain's Canary Islands.

The 67-year-old from Galway was best remembered for helping Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1989 when he fired a stunning shot with his two iron to within feet of the hole.

O'Connor's victory over American Fred Couples helped ensure the contest finished 14-14 with holders Europe therefore retaining the trophy. His achievements have been credited with inspiring a generation of Irish golfers, including major winners Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington.

The Golf Union of Ireland paid tribute by posting a clip of the memorable shot online and a note describing him as "a gentleman, an iconic figure of Irish golf and a true ambassador".

"He was a pioneer for professional Irish golfers and inspired a generation of players," the organisation said.

Ireland's Sports Minister Michael Ring, meanwhile, described O'Connor Jnr as "one of the leading lights of golf".

"Christy was definitely one of the greatest sports people this country produced over many, many years," he told the Irish Independent.

"He represented our country with honour. Even his famous Ryder Cup putt aside, he was one of the leading lights in golf. He led the road for the likes of Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy and others."

O'Connor Jnr's career highlights included two Ryder Cup appearances, 17 professional tournament wins, four wins on the European Tour and two British Open Senior titles.

In his latter years O'Connor Jnr -- the nephew of another hero of Irish golf, Christy O'Connor Snr -- was heavily involved in designing golf courses.