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Jan 6 (Reuters) - Irish golfer Christy O'Connor Junior, who helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry with the shot of his life in 1989, has died in Spain at the age of 67.
"We've lost a true Irishman, character and golfer - Christy O Connor jnr RIP," compatriot Paul McGinley, whose last hole putt at The Belfry won the Ryder Cup for Europe in 2002, said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The high point of O'Connor's career came in the 1989 Ryder Cup when a pressurised two-iron approach at the last hole set up a surprise singles win over future world number one Fred Couples which helped Europe to a 14-14 tie that retained the trophy.
Europe lost in his other Ryder Cup appearance in 1975 but he secured four European PGA Tour titles, two Senior British Opens and wins on the U.S. Champions Tour.
O'Connor Junior, nephew of 91-year-old Ryder Cup stalwart Christy O'Connor Senior, passed away in his sleep while on holiday with his wife Ann in Tenerife.
"No one will ever forget Christy O'Connor's two-iron from the middle of the 18th fairway at the Belfry which retained the 1989 Ryder Cup for Team Europe," Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a statement, reflecting the folk-memory that has elevated O'Connor's victory into the decisive moment.
Spaniard Jose Maria Canizares actually sealed the crucial point.
"It is an image that will remain fixed forever in the minds of all Irish golf and sporting fans," Kenny added.
Tony Jacklin, twice a major champion, was Europe's Ryder Cup captain in 1989.
"We were delighted to have him (O'Connor) on the team in 1989 and I remember he was very excited when I told him," Jacklin said.
"Christy hit a wonderful tee shot and Fred pulled his, but because he was so long he cleared the water, leaving himself with an eight iron, while Christy had a two iron.
"I said to Christy, 'come on, one more good swing for Ireland' and of course he hit the shot of his lifetime."
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond