Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

All-conquering Celtic Tiger Rory McIlroy returns to hero's welcome in Northern Ireland

Rory McIlroy pictured with the US Open trophy at George Best Belfast City Airport last night
Local shops congradulate US Open Champion Rory McIlroy in Holywood ahead of his return home
BETHESDA, MD - JUNE 19: Fans watch the play of Rory McIlroy during the final round of the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club on June 19, 2011 in Bethesda, Maryland. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

It will be the biggest day in Holywood’s sporting history when Rory McIlroy makes an unforgettable public appearance at the golf club where he grew up and learnt the game.

Many family, friends and fans will get the hugely anticipated first glimpse of the US Open winner and his trophy this afternoon after he became the youngest winner of the tournament since 1923.

“We can’t wait to see him. We are all very proud of him and what he has achieved,” said Paul Gray, manager at Holywood Golf Club.

The record-breaking golfer, now ranked number four in the world, arrived at George Best Belfast City Airport last night.

His first engagement at the golf club today will be private.

McIlroy is also expected to meet First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness before he holds a Press conference.

Plans, however, for a public celebration are still to be finalised.

A spokeswoman for North Down Borough Council said they are keen to arrange a public event to mark Rory’s success. “We have approached Rory’s management and said we would be happy to host a reception for Rory, family, friends and supporters at a venue.

“And we will help around arranging any kind of open-top bus parade, or public celebrations.”

In a town bursting with pride for its local hero, nowhere was more excited than Rory’s old school.

Pupils at St Patrick's Primary have been making banners and posters to welcome home their most famous old boy — once a pupil walking into class with golf balls in his pockets.

Rory won the world under-10 championships in the US when he was in P6 at the school.

A picture he painted in art class 12 years ago still hangs in the corridor and a photo of him and his classmates after their First Holy Communion is also on display.

His then teacher Maighread McCullough has only fond memories of the golf-mad pupil.

“He was a cute, loveable, good child who worked very hard and was an inspiration to the other boys in the class,” she recalled.

“He always had golf balls in his pockets, and tees. It was just taken for granted that he loved golf and always wanted to be as good as Tiger Woods.”

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