Michael Bannon first clapped eyes on wee Rory McIlroy as a toddler, sitting in his buggy watching dad Gerry, then a scratch golfer and former barman at Holywood, practice on the range.
“Gerry was a friend of mine at Hollywood and a good player,” he explains. “When Rory was born, I was aware of him being up at the club with his dad. Clearly he’d been watching Gerry closely — he learned his early swing, the rhythm of it, from his dad.”
By eight, the youngster’s talent and mental prowess were “frightening” according to Bannon and, even then, McIlroy loved to perform for an audience.
“Rory was a golfer at age eight. You’ve no idea how good he was,” says Bannon, who convinced the club to waive a membership age limit of 12 so McIlroy could join.
“We used to watch him play. He’d say ‘here, look at this’ and you’d have to look and see what he was doing.
“I’d say ‘hey Rory, fade one there’ and, next thing, he’d hit a lovely wee fade. ‘What about a wee hook,’ I’d say and he’d ask ‘Do you want a high one or a low one?’ You know, he could actually do it.
“They talk about having great hands. It was the most amazing thing. He knew what to do, straight from the head.
“Seve was very much in that mould. Rather than thinking of the technical aspect, he said if you can see the shot you want to play, your body will put itself in the position to do it.”