Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Walker star Rory will make it in big league

Faulkner is backing McIlroy to be a hit in the pro ranks

Rory McIlroy, in practice at Royal Co Down for the Walker Cup, has the class to go right to the top

The caddie who steered Rory McIlroy to his Silver Medal in the Open at Carnoustie believes the Holywood teenager is "up for the challenge" of the professional game.

Gordon Faulkner, who lived here as a young boy, is in Northern Ireland for this weekend's Walker Cup clash with the United States.

He spoke to the Belfast Telegraph about McIlroy's "presence", and his ambition "to go and win golf tournaments".

"He stands on a range and some kids his age would be like a rabbit in the headlights," the caddie said.

"He wants the challenge ? he's up for the challenge, he wants to stand up to the plate. A lot of guys don't and that's the difference between success and failure."

And the caddie sees opportunities for himself in his new partnership with the Holywood golfer.

"I've had opportunities to go and work with players in the last couple of years and I've stayed country club caddying ? I mean obviously the job security, but with this guy this might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for me," he said.

He is convinced that McIlroy has all it takes not just to play professionally but to compete at the top end of tournaments.

"He competed at Carnoustie (and) at the end of the day when a guy like Scott Verplank says this is the real deal, and Arron Oberholser said the same - you know they're experienced US Tour Pros, playing golf is their trade and he doesn't look out of place with those people," said the caddie.

"I've seen so many young kids come along," he continued.

"They've got the game but they haven't got the mindset, but he's got a very special golf game and he's got a very special mindset, and that isn't going to change.

"There are guys who think they can play, and they get a few cheques written out for them, a bit of sponsorship, and they think they've done it, but he doesn't think like that.

"He loves playing golf and he wants to go and win golf tournaments, and I see that in him.

"He's got a presence . . . he's going to come into some lucrative deals, but that's not changed him in anyway. He's thinking about golf. He's not thinking about the money."

For Rory the professional game is now only days away.

Immediately after the Walker Cup he goes straight to the first stage of qualifying at the European Tour School, and will play his first tournament as a professional in the British Masters on September 20.

His professional home will be the new Lough Erne Golf resort in Fermanagh.

So, many of the next steps are already planned and ready to be taken.

Can he make it? The new caddie ? Gordon Faulkner ? answers quickly.

"I don't think it's a question of if - it's when."

That's a confidence that comes from being so close to that McIlroy performance at Carnoustie.

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