Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Why everyone just can’t get enough of Rory McIlroy

Holywood has been celebrating Rory McIlroy's US Open win
Rory's Uncle Colm Mcllroy and Stephen Crooks, Head Professional at Holywood Gold Club, pictured with members.
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)

Good morning, Jim. Thanks again for sending us your Rory McIlroy headlines yesterday...

Can you email me copies of your Front and Back Pages again for Monday?

SportsCenter would like to show America your headlines again...

Thanks much, Brian

The email that greeted me yesterday morning from bigwig Brian H Wong from US sports broadcast giant ESPN was typical of the requests we've been fielding from American media organisations since Rory began burning up the course at Congressional on Thursday.

The Yanks just can't get enough of Northern Ireland's home-grown Holywood star.

But they can't keep him. He's only on loan, because he is ours ... and our wee country, united behind him as he strode down the 18th green last night, is immensely proud to call him one of our own.

In my lifetime, now into its sixth decade, I've seen scores of Northern Ireland-raised sportsmen and women bring credit to themselves and this small provincial outpost, perpetually punching above its weight on the world sporting stage.

But only a handful of heroes have gone global ... so gifted and charismatic the whole world wants a part of them.

George Best immediately springs to mind; Mary Peters and Barry McGuigan, the latter two born in Liverpool and Monaghan, respectively, but to all intents and purposes, they consider themselves from here.

Now add to that shortlist the name of Rory McIlroy, just 22 last month, and already the golden kid of the last few generations, blessed not only with God-given talent but also a strength of character and personality that people instantly warm to. Ever cheerful, he is impossible not to like.

The next derogatory word written or spoken about Rory McIlroy will be a collector's item — because it will be the first.

That's the beauty of Rory McIlroy ... a genuinely nice lad, unspoilt by fame or fortune, whose charm is akin to how he makes his golf look — like he doesn't have to try.

He does, of course, at his golf, that is.

Last night's astonishing accession to the pantheon of major winners is the culmination of 15 years of practice, sweat, toil and hard yards through his childhood and teens in pursuit of the dream his proud mum and dad, Rosie and Gerry, always knew was not an impossible one. Of that I can personally testify. I'd known his mum Rosie from our schooldays in Lurgan. We lost touch after school only for our paths to cross again, coincidentally, on holiday in Cyprus. Rosie was married then to Gerry, a handy amateur golfer in his own right, and there was Rory, aged four, swinging a wee plastic club.

Gerry told me, in all sincerity, on that holiday that his boy would grow into a champion one day and blame the journalist's own natural commodity, cynicism, if I doubted him, but not for long.

Rory soon appeared on the radar again, on the Kelly Show, chipping golf balls into Rosie's washing machine from 20 yards.

\[Ian Callender\]So much so, they, too, worked long hours, made sacrifices and forsook luxuries in order that a lad from a background of modest means could realise his potential in a sport traditionally beyond the reach of the ordinary 5-8. How he has repaid them, not least with the 32-acre ponderosa they now occupy at Moneyrea.

Through it all he has retained that boy next door appeal that has made him universally popular, beyond golf, and particularly in America.

What's more, it’s real, not cultivated.

More often than not, the information imparted by writers of sporting profiles is anecdotal, apocryphal, or gleaned second hand from friends of friends.

With this one, I was fortunate to witness first hand the evolution of the Rory phenomenon. I just didn't know it at the time.

Gerry and three pals also backed that belief when they wagered £100 each at 500/1 on Rory, then aged 12, winning the Open by the time he is 25. There’s a bookie in Belfast sweating now.

The great thing about Rory McIlroy is that he takes his golf seriously, but not himself.

Knowing the family background, this lad was never going to lose the run of himself.

That is why he now stands to make untold millions in terms of worldwide product endorsement.

Our local boy could also be the saviour of the troubled golf paradise that enjoys his patronage. The Lough Erne resort in Fermanagh will surely reap the benefits of the priceless exposure of their name on the collar of his golfing shirts, in pictures beamed across the States by my pal at ESPN.

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