Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Another day to celebrate for Rory McIlroy's proud club

Rory McIlroy celebrates after winning the Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens
Rory McIlroy celebrates after winning the Honda Classic golf tournament in Palm Beach Gardens
P7 pupils at St Patrick's in Holywood celebrate Rory McIlroys win
Rory's roots: Rory's MBE
Rory's roots: Rory's Ryder Cup Golf Bag
Rory's roots: a framed letter that Rory wrote to the club

It was on the fairways and greens of Holywood Golf Club where the dream began for a young Rory McIlroy.

And the venue was the scene of celebration on Monday as people reflected with pride on the hometown boy who has conquered the world.

For locals sipping pints in the bar overlooking the course, it doesn’t seem that long since a five-year-old Rory was pinging a plastic ball around the clubhouse.

Now that fresh-faced schoolboy has gone on to greatness, becoming world number one after winning the Honda Classic in Florida on Sunday evening.

Yesterday club members were busy practising their skills on the course, oblivious to the media spotlight.

Most took it all in their stride, having known all along that Rory was something special.

Inside the clubhouse Seamus Lavery, Jim Curtis, Jim Mooney and Brian Campbell sat around a table reflecting on their memories of Rory.

“The talent was obvious from an early age,” said Seamus.

“I remember him when he was about five and he was hitting plastic balls against the wall.

“Things have changed but he is still the same Rory — he is a great ambassador for the club and for Northern Ireland.”

Another who spotted Rory’s prodigious talent was Eddie Harper, the juvenile convener when he first joined the club.

“We changed the rules to get him into the club,” he said, pointing to an early photograph of Rory. “Normally kids have to be 10 but because he was so good, we brought him in at seven.

“He started off with a handicap of 18 and by the time he was 10 he was down to single figures. A few years later, when he was 13 or 14, he was playing for the senior teams.

“We knew Rory was going to be a good golfer, but we never imagined he would achieve this.”

The clubhouse walls are covered with mementoes of McIlroy’s journey from golf prodigy to sporting superstar.

Among them are his MBE, while Rory has also promised to send over a replica of the US Open trophy he won last year.

“There is room for a few more bits yet,” said general manager Paul Gray. “We will just keep on adding to it.

“It is fantastic to see Rory reach the pinnacle of his sport – we are really pleased for him.

“He was always going to be a good player, but number one in the world is a bit special.”

Ladies captain Sheila Lavery also spoke of her pride. “He has fulfilled all our dreams,” she said.

“To think a world number one has come from our club is incredible, but then to us he has always been number one.

“He is such a great role model. The young boys all want to be like Rory.”

The feelgood factor had also spread to the streets of Holywood, and customers at Skinner’s Bakery were tucking into specially-made Rory McIlroy buns.

“We made them when Rory won the US Open last year and had people queuing out the door to buy them,” said assistant manager Jade Walsh. “We made four or five dozen this morning and have only a handful left.”

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