Where does Rory McIlroy’s ex Holly Sweeney go from here ...?

Holly Sweeney
Holly Sweeney, Clare Graham and Sarah Beck
Rory McIlroy with Holly Sweeney at the Fate Awards

Holly Sweeney has poked fun at former love Rory McIlroy by having a 'golf pros and tennis hoes' themed TV dinner party, but is she right to have served up this very public revenge dish, asks Helen Carson

She’s sports mad, loves hitting the town with her girlfriends and says a sausage supper is the best hangover cure ... but most of us know Holly Sweeney as championship golfer Rory McIlroy’s recently dumped girlfriend.

And, while she has remained tight-lipped about their romance, there is some evidence of the pain caused by the break-up.

A TV outing on a Celebrity Come Dine With Me for TV3 in the Republic shows the girl, for all her youth, isn’t prepared to fade into the background. The theme of her contribution, ‘golf pros and tennis hoes’ was a fairly blunt reference to Rory’s new love live and the golfing superstar, apparently, was not amused.

Holly is seen sporting a very short white tennis skirt and tight top for her dinner party. During filming, her phone went off with a series of frantic texts from Rory begging her not to do it, according to a programme source.

But a laughing Holly just kept on cooking — as they say, revenge is a dish best served cold, even if not quite cold in this case.

It is understandable why this increasingly fiesty young woman has decided to exact some measure of revenge for being so publicly dumped, and then seeing all those reports about Rory and his new love, tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki, including pictures of him bringing her back to Northern Ireland.

But is it a wise longer term game-plan? Will it not show her as the woman scorned who cannot move on with her life? That, however, would be a mistaken impression, for Holly can often be seen out at one glitzy event or another with her friends and is certainly rebuilding her life as an independent and strong woman.

Holly has kept her game face on — always appearing cheerful and dignified — and emerging from the affair with a fair degree of class. But where does she go from here in a bid to shirk off the ‘Rory’s ex-girlfriend’ tag?

Previously we had only seen the glamorous 20-year-old student on golfing pro Rory’s |arm as he hit the big time, becoming a |global sports star to rival Tiger Woods in |both sporting and earning terms.

Now Holly has become a regular on the party circuit, looking stunning and always with her gaggle of girlfriends know as the ‘wolf pack’.

But this head-turning blonde appears to have poise well beyond her years, with brains to burn and a figure honed by gymnastics, dancing and regular work-outs for the Ulster Rugby team’s cheerleaders, the Rockettes.

A former student at Holywood grammar school Sullivan Upper, she is currently studying engineering at university — not a profession known for being overrun by gorgeous young females — and has won a lucrative modelling contract with a Dublin agency.

Nonetheless, her relationship with Rory was her first significant union and for the majority of the young couple’s six-year love affair they looked blissfully happy — childhood sweethearts who just wanted to be with each other.

The first glitch, though, came last Christmas when the pair became off-on, with a brief reconciliation after Rory’s infamous meltdown at the US Masters in April.

However, Holly would discover she was surplus to requirements after her multi-millionaire boyfriend triumphed in the US Open in the summer, shortly after which she was unceremoniously ditched.

Rather embarrassingly, this moment coincided with a TV documentary about the young golfer, who said that he had to ‘grovel’ to get Holly back after the Christmas bust-up.

A rare slip-up from the man who usually has his eye on the ball.

This glam and well-educated young woman should have the world at her feet. Since then, though, she has has to move out of the Co Down mansion she shared with one of the world’s top golfers.

And for the first time since her early teens, Holly is now facing the world as a single woman.

Home now is a plush penthouse — a trendy bachelorette pad — and Holly is proving quite the |independent woman, tweeting about painting her dressing |room shocking pink and taking delivery of a nippy Mini convertible.

She tweets between her band of girlfriends and fellow Rockettes about dancing, horse-riding and going-out, and seems to be content.

However, one tell-tale tweet from her friend Gill Stewart at the end of September this year said it all: “All a girl needs in her life is her wolf pack”, to which Holly tweeted back that same day “I love you”.

Despite the fact the loss of her long-term love is still quite raw, it appears Holly is ready to take on the world again.

A new, smarter, savvier Holly seems to be emerging from the heartbreak.

Previously, the coaches and professionals who surround Rory were quoted in newspapers saying what an ordinary Joe he was, liking nothing more than popping into his local coffee shop and getting around town on his trusty bike.

While the jet-set lifestyle and all its trappings are no longer part of Holly’s life, she is proving more than a match for her former beau by grabbing the opportunities that may come her way — so she can evolve into a person in her own right, outside his considerable shadow.

We ask four women how they think Holly has coped with such a high-profile break-up.

‘Time for her to move on’

Lynda Bryans, (49), director of a media training company, lives in Belfast with her husband MLA Mike Nesbitt, (54), and their two sons PJ, (16) and Christopher, (14). She says:

“Holly Sweeney is a very pretty, hugely intelligent woman and somebody like that doesn’t need a man to make their own way in the world.

Gone are the days when women were men’s chattels — she can do anything she wants.

However, I think there is clearly a lot of hurt there, and the Celebrity Come Dine With Me programme was quite cheeky, while being a moment of ‘I’ll show him’.

I think that it’s time Holly drew a line under it now though as she wouldn’t want to get a reputation for being a woman scorned.

You can be grown up about these things.

There are other things that she can make a name for herself in and she is capable of so much more.”

‘She can find her own niche’

Debbi Armstrong, (35), a freelance make-up artist, lives in Berkshire with her husband |soccer |legend Gerry Armstrong, (57). They have two children Caitlin,(11) and Marianna, (5). She says:

“I think Holly could easily emerge from this as a personality in her own right — a bit like Coleen Rooney, who has carved out a niche for herself. She is a young, intelligent woman who is studying for her own career.

I didn’t meet Gerry when he was playing football and we were both older so it was a lot different for us. Holly will probably get a job in engineering, so she can stand on her own two-feet. It will be difficult for her to get over the split as she is so young.

Because we have been together so long now I tend to forget that other people recognise him from the TV. To me we’re a family who do ordinary family things, yet he gets stopped all the time by people wanting a picture with him.”

‘It has been quite a kick in the teeth for her’

Pamela Ballentine, (51), broadcaster and Belfast Telegraph columnist, lives in Belfast. She says:

“I think Holly has handled any publicity around her really well. I have met her a few times on nights out and she is a really nice girl.

She was still at school when she got together with Rory — he wasn’t just anybody, he was the guy she was going to spend the rest of her life with.

She is a very glamorous, grounded girl.

I don’t know if Holly has any ambitions to be in the public eye, but it must be extremely tough for a young girl like her to see Rory and his new girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki on the television all the time — it must be a real kick in the teeth.

I think Holly is really charming and she seems like a really nice kid.

I know what it is like being single in Northern Ireland, although I’m with a really lovely guy for four years now. He was someone I had known for a few years — and then we decided to get our act together.

I think men in Northern Ireland have a real problem with strong, independent women and Holly is quite strong and independent, so any man who wants to ask her out will have to have a lot of cahoonies.”

‘To have a famous ex is tough’

Alex Best, (39), lives in London with her businessman fiance Howard Kruger, (51). She was the second wife of soccer legend George Best. The couple (below) married in 1995, divorcing in 2004. She says:

“I think it is very difficult especially when your partner is well-known.

You fall in love with someone because of their personality, not because they are someone who is famous.

With George I used to forget how famous he was — to me, he was just George.

I used to find it very difficult when we were out together because people would push me out of the way just to get close to George.

And he was such a family man and so genuine. He spent so much time with my family and they meant the world to him.

I feel sorry for Holly being so young. I was only 22 when I met George, although I knew exactly what I was getting myself into as he was so famous.

It is very difficult for Holly though — especially when it is your childhood sweetheart, you just don’t think of them as a famous person.

When you break up with a boyfriend you don’t have to see them ever again, but when they are a well-known sportsman you will see them on TV frequently, and it is so much harder to move on with your life.

Everybody has a broken heart at some time, but you just can’t allow the past to hold you back.”

Revenge of scorned women

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially for these women...

  • Diana, Princess of Wales, said in a famous Panorama documentary: “There were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
  • Madonna following her split from husband Guy Ritchie, said of her song Miles Away: “This song is for the emotionally retarded. Maybe you know some people who fall into that category? God knows I do.”
  • Mick Jagger’s ex-wife, Jerry Hall publicly exposed his infidelities: “I’d find things from other girls lying around. And then I started finding items next to the bed like earrings or rings. It was obvious.”
  • Singer Carly Simon effectively shamed many of her former lovers with the song You’re So Vain. To this day she has never revealed who the lyrics ‘You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you’ refer too.
  • Another fiesty female who spelt out her feelings about an abusive ex in a song is Rihanna (below). Her track Cold Case Love was written after her then boyfriend Chris Brown attacked the star. She said: “It was one of the first songs I did for the album. It was one of the most emotional.” She said she penned the tune to show she wasn’t going to be a victim.

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