Belfast Telegraph

Little girl who touched Rory McIlroy's heart in Haiti

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Holly Sweeney may be the love of his life, but details have emerged of another inspirational young girl who has captured the heart of golfing ace Rory McIlroy.

The harrowing plight of six-year-old Haitian Daphnie Pierre is said to have helped the US Open champion keep things in perspective and stay calm during the toughest moments in the competition at the Congressional course in Maryland last weekend.

Twenty-two-year-old Rory met the smiling youngster, pictured on his official Twitter page, on a visit to Haiti with Unicef earlier this month to raise awareness about the stricken country.

Daphnie's father was crushed to death and her mother seriously injured during the earthquake last year. Since then her family have lost their income, have to live in a small shelter near a large sewer, and rely on charity handouts. Rory was clearly struck by the smiling girl and tweeted to his 400,000 plus followers shortly after meeting her: "Still can't believe how great the spirit of the kids are there!"

The Holywood golf champion, still basking in his spectacular win in the US, spent the past weekend celebrating with boyband JLS, who were playing at the Odyssey in Belfast on Saturday. He invited the former X-Factor finalists to his luxury Co Down home and treated his Twitter fans to a picture of the group holding his coveted US Open cup.

"Party at my house with @JLSOfficial" he said.

It is understood after their concert on Saturday Rory and his girlfriend Holly partied the night away with a host of other celebs at Box nightclub, also in the Odyssey. He tweeted: "Big thanks to @boxnightclub for putting a great spread on last night for me and my friends!"

Meanwhile, Rory's father Gerry has spoken candidly about the sacrifices he and his wife Rosie made to help their son succeed. But 51-year-old, who held down three jobs and worked over 100 hours a week as a cleaner and barman, said the hard slog was well worth it when Rory scooped the US Open title.

"We worked very hard to get him where he is," said an immensely proud Gerry. "If we had not put the effort in at the time I could be sitting here wondering what would have happened, and regretting not doing it."

It hadn't been meant for the cameras, but millions of people looked on as Rory (22) said "happy Father's Day" just after cementing his place in history. Gerry added: "It was expensive - hotels, air fares and everything. But we worked to get where we are. We are very lucky with Rory.

Of course there are times everyone gets fed up working, but as the years went by Rory got better and better, so it was more of an incentive. I didn't mind and Rosie didn't mind. Rory is our only child so you can just do the best you can for them. We didn't know what was going to happen. All we did was try our best for him.

"He drove it all, we just helped him. You can't push kids into anything. But once he decided he wanted to do it, we were 100% behind him."

And while Rory's win has seen him pocket £800,000 in prize money with the likelihood of millions more in sponsorship deals, Gerry insisted wealth was not a priority for his son.

"Rory has no interest in money," he said. "Rory is just Rory. People find it hard to understand, but he doesn't care about cash as long as he has enough to do him. Even growing up he never really cared about money, it has never meant anything to him.

"He has a nice house nearby and he's put a few quid into it, but apart from that he doesn't spend much."

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