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Why is Holywood so reluctant to recognise Rory McIlroy?

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 22/05/2015

Rory McIlroy displays the US Open trophy, his first Major, in his native Holywood four years ago
Rory McIlroy displays the US Open trophy, his first Major, in his native Holywood four years ago

He's one of the world's most famous sportsmen, yet a visitor would be hard-pressed to know that Holywood is Rory McIlroy's home town.

While he is introduced as being from the Co Down town ahead of each tournament, the genteel seaside town seems not ready to publicly capitalise on its biggest asset.

The lack of a permanent and fitting monument or tribute to the world number one golfer will again be raised at and Ards and North Down council meeting next Wednesday.

Journalist and commentator Brian Rowan raised this in a Belfast Telegraph column this week when he suggested that walking up Holywood's Main Street a visitor would not realise that it was the home of Rory.

The establishing a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame in tribute to Rory has gained some support on Twitter,

PGA golf professional Stephen Gordon from Holywood suggested a golf museum named after him like that of Jack Nicklaus in Columbus, Ohio.

Councillor Andrew Muir will raise the matter after he raised it in August 2014 with the former North Down council. However, he believes that the issue of having a permanent tribute is not the problem, but finding something that would meet the approval of the modest star.

"There's no doubt that the people of Holywood would want it," said the Alliance councillor. "But we as a council should not do anything that wouldn't have the support of Rory. I would suspect, as a modest man, he might be a bit embarrassed about it. That's fine and we would need to respect that, but the town wants to celebrate its link with Rory."

DUP councillor Stephen Dunne agreed and added: "I would be supportive of any move and I think other councillors and the public would support as it's a positive thing."

A spokeswoman for Ards and North Down Council confirmed that Rory was featured on the signage welcoming people to Holywood (it states 'Home of Rory McIlroy') and on the Wall of Fame at Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex that pays tribute to local sporting heroes.

She added: "The council and local community are very proud of Rory and the council is happy to celebrate and host an event for him.

"His international status and subsequently busy schedule haven't allowed for this to date, but conversations will continue with his representatives."

Holywood Golf Club, where Rory started to play golf, is more than proud of its close association with him and his family.

Manager Paul Grey said: "You would certainly know that Rory is from Holywood if you came in here. He's all over the place.

"We've refurbished the club at the cost of £500,000 in 2013 to accommodate the demand that we were getting from international tourists."

How other areas have honoured their golfing greats

Jack Nicklaus (75). Born in Columbus, Ohio, Jack was a boy wonder. He took up golf at the age of 10, Won six US Masters titles as well as 18 Majors over his career.

Ohio State University in Columbus is home to the Jack Nicklaus Museum, a state-of-the-art, 24,000sq ft facility offering "an immersive journey through Jack's brilliant career".

Arnold Palmer (94) is regarded as perhaps the greatest golfer in the history of the professional sport. Born in Latrobe, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he overcame childhood polio to eventually dominate world golf for decades in the mid-20th century.

Arnold Palmer International Airport in Pennsylvania at Latrobe is named in his honour, and Latrobe's Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve is named in hour of his late wife.

Jack Nicklaus Museum
Jack Nicklaus Museum

Ben Hogan 1912-97, was one of the giants of 20th century golf. He was raised in the small town of Dublin, Texas, where his family had a blacksmith's shop.

There is a statue of this golfing great in his home town, as well as a Ben Hogan Museum. The museum highlights his life, including the horrible car crash which threatened his career, and his amazing comeback to the victorious 1953 series of wins known as the Triple Crown.

Hogan remains the only golfer in history to win the Masters, US Open, and British Open in the same calendar year (1953).

Sir Nick Faldo MBE (57) is a former world No.1 with 30 victories on the European Tour and six Major championships: three Open Championships (1987, 1990, 1992) and three Masters (1989, 1990, 1996).

Born in Welwyn Garden City in 1957, he grew up in a council house in the little Hertfordshire town, only taking up golf at the age of 15. The Sir Nick Faldo Sports Centre at Welwyn's Frederic Osborn School is named after the local golfer,

Gary Player (79) was born in Johannesburg in 1935. He was a late starter, playing his first round of golf at the advanced age of 14.

The Gary Player Foundation was founded in 1983 and, through charity golf events, has raised more that $30m for humanitarian work including the Blair Atholl Primary and Nursery Schools, built on the former Player estate in Johannesburg, which together educate 500 underprivileged learners.

He holds an honorary degree from the University of Ulster.

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