Former European Tour player John O’Leary has died aged 70 following a long illness.
Dublin-born O’Leary enjoyed a successful playing career, winning two European Tour events, playing in the 1975 Ryder Cup and chalking up three World Cup appearances for Ireland. Following his retirement from the game in 1989, he made a huge contribution to growth of the European Tour in his role as a director for 34 years.
The highlight of his individual playing career came with victory in the 1982 Irish Open at Portmarnock. He also won the 1976 Greater Manchester Open, while his first win as a professional was in the 1975 Royal Swazi Sun Open on the South African circuit. His best finish in a Major was in the 1979 Open Championship, when he finished tied-13th.
In terms of team golf, the highlight of his career was playing on the Britain & Ireland team in the 1975 Ryder Cup at Laurel Valley in the United States, where he played four matches, but failed to win a point. O’Leary also represented Ireland in three World Cups (1972, 1980 and 1982).
On finishing his playing career, he served as a director of the European Tour from 1985 until 2019, attending his last meeting in March of last year. Among his many achievements in office, he is credited with playing a significant part in bringing the Ryder Cup to Ireland for the first time in 2006, when Europe won at The K Club.
Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour, said: “John made a huge contribution to the evolution of the European Tour, firstly as a successful player and then as a long-serving member of the tour’s board of directors. Above all, he loved our game. We will sorely miss him, and our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Padraig Harrington, who won the Irish Open in 2007, 25 years after O’Leary, tweeted: “So sorry to hear of the passing of a legend of Irish golf John O’Leary. He always had a kind word to say and gave you advice without preaching. He was a larger-than-life character whose stories will live on.”