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May 13, 2009

Christy O'Connor

George O'Grady

Jack Peter


MICHAEL GIBBONS: Thanks for joining us today. Obviously a very special day for Irish golf and especially Christy. Before we kick off, we'll introduce the top table. To the far left is Robert Finnegan, Chief Executive of 3, our title sponsor; Martin Cullen, TV Minister For Art, Sport and Tourism; next to Robert, George O'Grady Chief Executive of The European Tour; next to Martin, Mr. Jack Peter, Chief Operating Officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and in the middle a man who needs no introduction, Christy O'Connor.
George, would you like to kick us off with some opening comments, please.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Firstly, welcome everyone today to the beginning of the 3 Irish Open. We'll have other announcements on that side, but to start with one, really a joyous announcement at the beginning of the week, that Ireland's great legendary Christy O'Connor has been recognised in the World Golf Hall of Fame and will be inducted on November 2. Christy is only the second Irishman to go into the Hall of Fame, and the first representing professional golf.
I don't think any of us from The European Tour could find a more fitting person to have that honour, and we are delighted that one, he's been told and managed to keep it virtually a secret I think until today, and I think I speak for everybody on The European Tour that we are just absolutely delighted.
I think Jack Peter has basically run this Hall of Fame and with all of the different people that come into it, and perhaps just to explain a little bit about what it is, Jack, you might run us through the ins and the outs before we hear from Christy himself.
JACK PETER: Thank you. It is a real pleasure and honour to be with the 3 Irish Open today, and I want to thank the tournament for allowing us the platform of the media centre to announce this today, and to welcome Christy into the Hall of Fame. I want to talk about just a minute on the process of the World Golf Hall of Fame and how people are elected and selected into the Hall of Fame.
Most recently we announced that Lanny Wadkins from the US PGA TOUR was elected into the Hall of Fame. The US Tour has a ballot, the international golf community has a ballot; those are both elected tracks. There are voting bodies attached to each of those avenue in the Hall of Fame, and the voting body is made up of primary golf media, journalists historians and some selected golf administrators from around the world.
The LPGA Tour has a points-based system which allows for induction into the Hall of Fame, and we have two discretionary categories that are selected by our board of directors of which George O'Grady serves on that board. The first discretionary category is called the veterans category, and the last one is called lifetime achievement, and that is really reserved for contributors to the game, which their contributions have come primarily from outside the ropes.
Christy was selected for induction through the veteran's category, primarily for his remarkable achievements on the course. I don't think in particular where I'm sitting we need to explain his impact on the game of golf in Ireland, but I can tell you his impact on the game of golf in Ireland has transcended and moved across the world, and we are pleased and honoured to welcome Christy into the World Golf Hall of Fame. As George said, he is the second Irishman to come in.
We pride ourselves on telling stories at the World Golf Hall of Fame, and as you know, Christy is going to be a wealth of stories for us moving forward.
A bit about where we are located for those of who you don't know, the World Golf Hall of Fame is located in northeast Florida, 20 minutes from Sawgrass. So when all of you are over there on November 2, we expect to see you playing golf over at the TPC.
And at this point, I just want to take a moment and welcome Mr. Christy O'Connor into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and ask him to comment on his selection and election by the board of directors.
Christy, welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame. If you would, comment about your feelings when you got the phone call.
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: If I told you ladies and gentlemen about my feelings about the way I feel at the moment, considering yesterday that I was home, before I saw the people who is responsible for voting me into the Hall of Fame, when I heard this from my dear friend, George, Mr. George O'Grady, and I didn't know, I thought I got a phone call from somebody kidding. I said: "No, that can't be possible, just a minute, sir. That can't be possible, me, into the Hall of Fame."
So I didn't even tell my wife. I said, "I think there's somebody, I don't think that's Mr. George O'Grady." So I said to George, I said, "George, would you put something in writing."
So I was waiting for the letter. Eventually it did arrive; thank you, George.
GEORGE O'GRADY: By pigeon post; Richard Hills.
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: So I'm delighted to be here and receiving the honour at this wonderful championship at 3 the Irish Open, gentlemen, and I'm thrilled that it's in Baltray, when it's not in Royal Dublin; I'd love to have it in Royal Dublin actually. But I still can't believe it, and I really in my heart, I am a gentleman and I am absolutely stumped for words. But usually I'm not usually stumped for words, I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen.
But when you get something like this, when you don't expect, because I didn't think I was in that type of league with these top people who have been received into this; I mustn't have been too bad, really. So I certainly am very proud of what you have given me here.
I'll try to be a good gentleman, if possible, mind you, there's a little bit I can do now at 84 years of age. But I think that George -- may I call you, sir, George? Thank you for your beautiful message on the phone. And Richard, for coming along to meet me in Royal Dublin, we even kept that quiet yesterday, sorry that we couldn't tell you. I did my best but that was the best I could do.
What a great thrill to introduce Jack to come along and tell me the good news. So ladies and gentlemen, I am absolutely -- I don't know what to say. What can you say? I'm so pleased. I would like to take this time to say to the people in the United States and the PGA that are in the Hall of Fame, I'm speechless. So thank you very much.

Q. Obviously an incredibly long and successful career; would you pick out anything from it as being the highlight?
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: You know, the highlight I think is meeting nice people. When you're a professional golfer, you travel a good part of the world, and being as lucky as I have been the Tour and to be so successful, which was not bad, I suppose, I must have been quite all right. But really, it's meeting people, because no matter where you go, no matter what country you went to, golfers are golfers. So to answer your question, it's meeting people, really. That's what I really appreciate.
It's a gift. It's great.

Q. Congratulations. It strikes me that it's 50 years since you shot a course record 66 at Portmarnock to beat Joe Carr in the Dunlop Masters and now you're joining him in the Hall of Fame. That must be special.
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: Joe was a great friend, and I had the great pleasure of playing with Joe. Mind you, Joe had a bigger wallet than I had. Joe, he's upstairs, I hope he's upstairs. My good friend, Harry, as well. I was telling Jack, the first time I met Jack Nicklaus, a very nice thing yesterday, Jack Nicklaus rang me to congratulate me, as well, on my 50 years in Royal Dublin as a club pro tournament player.
See the difference now, today, kids you don't know, the tournament players and the club pros. I think Joe was a great friend of mine when he died. He died a very youngish man, and I had a lot of great battles with him. And there again it, he was worldwide a great amateur.

Q. For so many years your name was synonymous with golf, Christy O'Connor/golf, you didn't have to be a fan of golf to know that Christy O'Connor was a golfer. And you didn't get a chance to play in America, and in this ways this recognition, this award has come from America, would you have loved to have had a go at one of those majors which one would you liked to have played in most?
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: Well, I'll answer the question this way. First of all, when I started the Tour, there's a thing called cash, money; I had very little of it.
So to really get on the Tour, I worked really hard giving lessons and teaching people, which I loved, and then eventually I got a little money and I said, now, I have no sponsors; it was my money and I was going to play very hard for it. So that was the secret in the one way.
The other way is the States, being on The Ryder Cup, which I always got a great thrill and seeing a good part of the world and a good part of the States and of course a good part of England, as well, because it was England and Ireland at that time was The Ryder Cup. Now it's Europe and it's opened up. I was young when I came to The Ryder Cup; I was invited to the Masters, 20 times, because every two years, as you know, gentlemen, is The Ryder Cup.
So in that time, people said, Christy, why don't you go to the Masters. I'm very sad I didn't go to the Masters, and I can only tell that you to the date, and I'm sad I didn't win the British Open, too. But really, the question is, this is the question, and I'm very sad I didn't play in the Masters. I would have loved the event but I couldn't afford to. England at that time, which was across the water at that time, it was like going to America now. So England, it was in Spalding. Now that was in April. Now I wouldn't be tuned up to go to the Masters, because my money couldn't afford to go.

Q. In the television era, our stars like McDowell, Harrington, McIlroy, have a worldwide impression and impact; what do you make of our new crop of role model golfers in Ireland?
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: Well, I would say, they might like me for this, but we used to play 36 holes the last day, down the road at Wentworth, that was something in the PGA at that time, and might held up. Somebody would lose a ball or something, and you would hand in the card and say, Christy, you'll have 15 minutes and that will be about three hours and a little, you would run around for 18 holes.
Well, now, don't hold this against me, you asked this question; I'd hate to be playing now, today, because I was always a fast player. I think that I would get lost. I think I probably would be looking for the bar. That's a joke, of course. (Laughter).
GEORGE O'GRADY: Before we do anything else, we'll take more questions, but our Chief Executive of our sponsoring company is even more silly than any of us here: He is going to play in the Pro-Am in 15 minutes time. You two are playing together. So can you just give them a nice tip, the first tee, what they can do on the first tee, what you told me many years ago.
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: I'll give you all a tip, actually, professionals and all. When you're hitting the ball -- wait a minute, I can't say this. When you're hitting the ball, don't be too anxious, because weight is a feel you hit.
In other words, the putt's the same, but what you have to do, playing with these pros, they are very nice, you know what I'm saying here, is really nonsense at the moment, I'm nearly asleep. I would say look at the ball and don't be anxious to see before you hit the shot; in other words, wait for the hit. And I think that's as good a tip for even a top pro.
GEORGE O'GRADY: You two have got to win with that now.

Q. Your game and skills were admired and envied the world over. Was there one particular compliment paid to you by anybody, by a Jack Nicklaus or that ilk that stands out?
CHRISTY O'CONNOR: I had the great pleasure of playing with Jack many a times. In the Open, I played -- matter of fact, I give you a great one. I played in Troon with Jack there that year that Tom Weiskopf won it in Troon. And in the last round, it was my honour and I hit my drive down and I hit one that just expanded about six inches and I said, Jack, that's embarrassing.
So I hit a good 9-iron to the green but Jack just took the driver and I said, Jack, you're not taking the driver, are you? He says, Christy, the first shot today -- he pitched it back over the green. He was pitching back over the green in Troon. That's some tee shot.
You see, Jack was always a great friend of mine, great man to play with, a great gentleman. Matter of fact, as I said yesterday, he even got on the phone and said, congratulations. That was a very important thing for me again yesterday. And that's the best I can tell you.
I had a lot of great friends and I had a lot of great friends in the print, as well, sometimes. But mostly always and we got on very well. And it was a great pleasure, gentlemen. I know you had a job to do and you're professionals, and like me, I understand them.
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Christy, many congratulations, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts

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