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Comment: Harry Diamond can put some of the sparkle back into best friend's Rory McIlroy's game

 

By Deric Henderson

Rory McIlroy and Harry Diamond have been flying together for years. A retired businessman once had a photograph of the pair on the wall of his shop on Belfast's Lisburn Road, taken as they were about to climb the steps to board a friend's Lear Jet.

It was presented to him to be framed by an old acquaintance, and that was at a time when they were two emerging young amateur golfers - Rory especially - wide-eyed and still in their teens.

They've flown to all parts of the globe on business and pleasure, the closest of pals, and with the announcement that Harry is to become Rory's new caddie for at least his next two tournaments, that friendship has moved to a level they could surely never have contemplated when taking their seats on that jet all those years ago.

Rory will make a permanent appointment at some stage in the future, but in the meantime they'll knuckle down and see how it goes. Rory can barely move without the cameras, so stand by then for this new golfing double act to attract the sort of attention which is normally reserved for world leaders.

Diamond was Rory's best man at his wedding a couple of months ago, and is part of a family business which owns a chain of hotels, pubs and restaurants in Belfast and Bangor. He loves all types of sport and both of them share a passion for Manchester United and Ulster rugby.

READ MORE: Who is Rory McIlroy's new caddie Harry Diamond?

They have a very close circle of friends who know how to enjoy themselves, but who are also deadly serious about protecting and securing the integrity of those relationships, and that's probably why McIlroy's decision to hire his closest pal to carry his tour bag might be as good an interim solution as any as he ponders on who his future long-term caddie might be.

Diamond, a member of Clandeboye's Senior Cup team, is a first-class golfer who has caddied for Rory before, and even though the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Arkon might be his first formal introduction to a trade once frowned upon by the sport's snobbish hierarchy, he has been around his boss and championship venues long enough to know what's what, and who's who.

JP Fitzgerald was with McIlroy for nine profitable years, but Diamond's friendship stretches back a lot longer than that, and if anybody qualifies to get the yardages right, hand over the correct clubs and manage the mood music, then it is him.

He is a former Ireland international and Ulster inter-provincial player, and carrying the clubs next week at the US PGA Championship is unlikely to faze him either.

He was on Rory's bag as early as 2005 at the Irish Open and as recently as October 2014 at the Dunhill Links Championship when McIlroy was the World No.1, but any talk of this being a full-time post was firmly nailed on the head last night by someone who knows them both, and who was prepared to comment on the strict understanding that he remained anonymous.

This is how he called it: "They've been hanging out together since they were so high and there is no doubt that Rory thinks the world of him. But take it from me, it will have been Rory who asked Harry to caddie, not the other way round.

"He's the sort of guy who is hugely popular with his set, very good looking and very well liked. You'll never hear a bad word about him.

"He gets on with his life in the family business. He has a nice girlfriend. He is well mannered and confident and believe me, he will do a good job for Rory.

"He's a brilliant golfer with a superb short game and maybe that's one of the reasons why he and Rory are so close. Harry is so good at chipping and putting. They can spend hours together on the greens.

"But he certainly isn't in it for the money. He's a wealthy man in his own right and there is absolutely no chance of him taking the job full-time because he couldn't afford to take a pay cut!

"And I'm not joking..."

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