Christy O'Connor Jnr: Ryder Cup hero dies aged 67

European Ryder Cup hero Christy O'Connor Jnr has died suddenly in Spain at the age of 67.

The Irishman helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in 1989 when his two-iron approach at the last sealed a singles win over Fred Couples.

O'Connor won four European Tour titles including his Irish Open triumph at Woodbrook in 1975.

That victory helped secure a Ryder Cup spot that year and he played in the competition again 14 years later.

The Galway man won two Senior British Open titles and also earned victories on the Champions Tour in the US.

'A true Irishman, character and golfer'

Paul McGinley pays tribute to the late Christy O'Connor Jnr

His legendary uncle Christy O'Connor Snr, who is now 91, played in 10 Ryder Cups and came close to winning the Open Championship on a couple of occasions.

O'Connor Jnr passed away while on holiday with his wife Ann in Tenerife.

Like his famous uncle, O'Connor Jnr starting playing golf in his native Galway and he turned professional while still in his teens in 1967.

O'Connor's breakthrough season on the European Tour came eight years later when his tied victory with Ian Stanley in the Martini International and Irish Open triumph secured his Ryder Cup place.

After a period of struggle in the late 1970s, O'Connor regained his form in the following decade and finished in a share of third place in the 1985 Open after leading the field following an opening 64 at Royal St George's.

The Irishman was a controversial omission from the Ryder Cup team in 1985 after narrowly missing out on automatic selection.

However, European captain Tony Jacklin selected the then 41-year-old Irishman as one of his wild card picks in 1989 and the skipper's decision was vindicated by O'Connor's vital singles win over Couples.

His fourth and final European Tour triumph came at the British Masters at Woburn in 1992 and a successful Senior Tour career followed on both sides of the Atlantic.

O'Connor also forged a career as a golf course architect with over 30 projects throughout Europe.

'An absolute legend of Irish golf'

Shane Lowry pays tribute to the late Christy O'Connor Jnr

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that O'Connor's death would be a "source of great sadness to all golfing fans in Ireland and across Europe".

"I knew Christy personally and he loved and lived life to the full," said the Irish Taoiseach.

Irish President Michael D Higgins described O'Connor as an "iconic figure in golf".

"Christy represented his country and its people on the international stage with distinction, dignity and great humour," added the Irish President, who is also a Galway native.

"He will be missed by not only his sporting colleagues, but also by his community, and in particular by his friends.

"We will miss his warm personality, his generosity and his great resilience of spirit."

Former European Tour chief executive Ken Schofield said the Irishman was "every amateur's dream as the perfect pro-am partner, on and off the golf course".

"For everyone involved with the Tour and the game of golf, Christy will be remembered as a gentleman spirit," said the ex-European Tour chief.