Irish Open 2015: Rory McIlroy delivers on and off the course
Rory McIlroy is the Holywood hero born to be a golfing superstar.
He is recognised around the globe as the world’s number one player and already aged just twenty-six he has four major titles to his name.
And it’s now impossible for him to walk the streets of his native Northern Ireland without being mobbed by well-meaning fans.
He is not quite so well known for the work of the Foundation which bears his name – although that might change now with the Rory McIlroy Foundation hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.
The Rory Foundation was set up simply to support children’s charities both at home and further afield.
One of the major beneficiaries is the Daisy Lodge Centre for children with cancer just a couple of miles from the County Down course.
Setting up the foundation McIlroy explained: “When I was younger my parents sacrificed everything to allow me to play the game I loved.
“Having that support from my family allowed me to chase my dreams.
“But I know that not every child is so fortunate. My aim is that the Rory Foundation will support children’s charities big and small around the world that try to give kids a helping hand.”
McIlroy officially opened Daisy Lodge in Newcastle in October last year. It provides short breaks for children suffering from cancer.
“It is something at home and it is something that I feel strongly about,” McIlroy says.
“Being able to see what they have built for children and their families has been fantastic.
“It’s great to see what a superb job people are doing here in trying to help people get back on their feet after being diagnosed with cancer.
“The facilities are unbelievable.”
The Rory Foundation was also behind a competition open to schools on both sides of the border to have the Irish Open trophy and the Claret Jug McIlroy holds as current Open champion, visit their school in the run-up to the County Down tournament. Winners from the four schools will also get to attend the Wednesday Pro-Am event.
Rory’s uncle Brian McIlroy, chairman of the Rory Foundation, said: “Rory is very proud of where he comes from and it is very important for him to be as good an ambassador as he can for the island, north and south.
“His commitment to helping children all over the world through the Rory Foundation is as strong and driven as his golf.
“With the Irish Open tour competition we wanted to engage with schoolchildren throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic to stimulate pride in their class, school and in their own achievements, while at the same time encouraging a love of sport and in particular golf.”
McIlroy himself benefited from Darren Clarke’s Foundation as a teenager in Ulster – although that is a completely different kind of operation, designed to help up-and-coming young players.
And Clarke says now that McIlroy stood out for him even when he first laid eyes on him as a 12-year-old.
“He stood out straight away,” he said.
“He didn’t hit it quite as far as he hits it now, mind, but he still hit it pretty hard when he was 12.”
Four majors and a couple of World Golf Championships later, thanks to his matchplay win recently in San Francisco, McIlroy is intent on cementing his position as the world’s best player.
He may have missed out on the career Grand Slam at last month’s Masters, but he reckons that is only a matter of time.
“I’d be very disappointed if at the end of my career I looked back and didn’t have at least a couple of wins at Augusta,” he says.
“It’s always gratifying to be compared to the achievements of Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, but I never consciously look at those things.
“If you keep winning then they just take care of themselves and the same goes for the world rankings.
“The more you win tournaments, the further ahead in the rankings you get.”
To date McIlroy has won three events this season.
He is doubtless targeting a successful Open Championship defence in July at St Andrews, a venue where he has unfinished business after his second round 80 there five years ago.
In 2014 he won two majors which he said was his target for last year and there’s no reason to suppose he has lowered his standards this time around.
And a victory around Royal County Down would occupy a special place in his trophy cabinet as well.
McIlroy is one man who delivers on and off the course.