While the ripples of the loss of Christy Senior wash over the golfing world many of us will also be thinking back to Christy Junior who died in January of this year. I had the pleasure of meeting Junior on several occasions and, as well as lighting up any room he walked into, he was always so encouraging to me about my own erratic golf game. I never actually teed it up with Christy but I did once finish ahead of him in a charity Pro-Am.
For many years the Sean Flanagan Pro-Am has been run at Co Sligo Golf Club raising funds for leukemia research. The Flanagan family’s popularity and contribution to Connacht and Irish golf is widespread and top professionals like Christy were only to happy to lend their support. So, some 25 years ago I found myself playing in the same event as the great man. The evening prior to the golf there was a reception for all and sundry which helped raise loads of cash for the charity. The format was announced – a shotgun start at 11.00am (nothing happens too early in Ireland), teams of four with the two best nett scores to count and an individual professional prize.
All was set – or was it? Christy – only a handful of years removed from his unforgettable 2-iron against Freddie Couples in the Ryder Cup – was in huge demand and had to be down in Galway at another function by mid- afternoon. No problem. Christy and his team would start from the first tee at 9 o’clock and he would have a clear run at things for two hours. We were then asked to wave him through and speed him on his way to a waiting helicopter which would whisk him off to Galway in time for his next appointment. What could go wrong?
As it happened, my team were on the 18th when Christy and his team, followed by a gaggle of ardent fans (he was ever the Pied Piper), played through us. We had a chat. He was playing rather well, he confessed, in the tricky conditions. Needed a four at the last for a 65. Which he got. Outstanding stuff. We were on the green when Christy boarded the chopper, still in his spikes, and waved his trademark white cap in farewell. A quick airborne circuit of the clubhouse and he was off down to Galway secure in the knowledge that his score couldn’t be beaten.
Imagine our surprise at the end of the day when the scoreboard showed two large letters opposite Christy’s name: DQ.
The tournament officials had omitted to remove a sign from the first tee prior to Christy’s start. The sign, which was nowhere to be seen by the time of the shotgun start, read: “Preferred lies in play.”