Holly Sweeney cheers Ravenhill as ex-love Rory McIlroy hits the fairways at Augusta
The spotlight will be on Rory McIlroy tomorrow as he tees off in the US Masters at the famous Augusta National course.
But back home his former girlfriend Holly Sweeney is rebuilding her life after the shock announcement of their split in December after six years together... and it’s amazing the difference a few months can make.
Holly, once described by Rory as “quite shy”, demonstrated a new confidence when she appeared recently as part of an all-singing, all-dancing Ulster rugby cheerleading squad at Ravenhill.
The 20-year-old student helped whip the fans into a frenzy with an energetic dance routine with the newly-formed Ulster Rockettes.
Wearing a tight T-shirt and white shorts, a poised Holly performed for thousands on the Ravenhill pitch and seemed a world away from the shy 16-year-old the world first saw in August 2007.
She was just 15 when she met Rory at Holywood Golf Club in August 2005 while playing golf with her girlfriends. Romance blossomed immediately and as Rory went on to enjoy a meteoric rise to the top, Holly opted to remain in the background with a protective Rory shielding her from the media spotlight.
Ironically it was just two months before their split in September 2010 that Holly appeared for the first time by Rory’s side in an official capacity at the Ryder Cup in Wales.
Sporting a sleek new short hairstyle, she emerged as a mature and very beautiful young woman who effortlessly fitted in alongside the wives and girlfriends of the world’s greatest golfers.
Just weeks later Rory announced they were splitting, citing work commitments as the reason. Having grown up together, the couple appeared to reach a stage when their lives were going off in different directions, with Rory’s international career putting a strain on the relationship.
Speaking for the first time some weeks after the split, Rory insisted it was amicable and that he and Holly had remained good friends.
“Me and Holly talk every day,” he said.
“We still get on great. I think we both understand what we want and that’s basically what it is.”
Conceding that life as a professional golfer sometimes required him to be selfish, he added: “I didn’t have a great couple of weeks before Christmas but you got to do what’s right for yourself.
“At this time of my life, I want to put this time into my golf.”
Holly is concentrating on her studies in sports technology at the University of Ulster.
She teamed up with a group of girls from First Dance NI to form the new cheerleading group in support of the Ulster Rugby team.