Rory McIlroy tees off latest Master's prize for US students
Victory Scholar programme will also help future sporting stars in province
Rory McIlroy knows all about The Masters - but usually he's in Augusta, rather than launching US students into academic degrees in Northern Ireland.
The Co Down golfing sensation yesterday announced the latest programme to bring US students to Northern Ireland where they will combine their studies with sport.
Those taking part in the 2016 Victory Scholar Programme will also help young future sports stars in the province.
McIlroy hosted the launch at Nike's headquarters in New York City, where the Victory scholars and their families also heard of a new partnership between the Rory Foundation and Sport Changes Life, which started the Victory Scholar Program in 2007.
It gives US students the opportunity to come to Northern Ireland and the Republic to earn their Master's degrees, mentor young athletes and continue to play their sport.
Rory said it shares many of the same objectives as his Foundation - which helps a variety of young people's charities - so the partnership was an easy choice.
"The Victory Scholar students are driven young athletes hoping to further develop their skills at Irish universities while assisting local community outreach initiatives," he said.
"Not every young person has the opportunities and advantages I had growing up, so I really hope these ambitious students will make a difference to many young lives and be a force for positive change in communities most in need."
Over eight years, the scholars have mentored and helped more than 191,820 young people in Northern Ireland and the Republic. This year the scheme was able to fund 23 Victory scholars because of their partnership with the Rory Foundation.
The Victory Scholar Program will pay for $2.3m (£1.74m) in education to the scholars going to nine universities this year. Six will attend Ulster University, with two golf scholars and four in basketball. They will be studying sport-focused subjects, such as sports psychology and management.
The other 17 scholars will attend universities in the Republic.
They will study a variety of subjects including business management, financial services and marketing and communications.
The CEO of Sport Changes Life, Gareth Maguire, said the partnership has given the Victory scholars and young people across Ireland an incredible role model in McIlroy.
"Having the encouragement of a globally admired role model like Rory, has fundamentally benefited our ambitions for the Sport Changes Life Victory Program," he said.
"It is our mission to help and support young people who just don't have that support and help them achieve. That is the role of the Victory Scholar, to become a coach, a mentor and a friend to our young people and to build these important relationships."