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Rory McIlroy a class act, on and off the course

By Steven Beacom

Everyone was smiling at Holywood Golf Club yesterday. You could almost reach out and touch the feelgood factor.

Rory McIlroy, their boy, had come home.

And it seemed as though everyone in the town was there to greet him, as parked cars lined each side of the road en route to the entrance.

The modest venue in County Down was packed, full to the brim of people itching to get a glimpse or a word with sport's latest superstar.

You couldn't swing a seven iron inside, let alone a cat.

The bar was overloading with well wishers and family friends. The media types in the corridors and the massed bank of photographers outside added to the air of expectancy on a day to savour for all associated with the town of Holywood.

The only McIlroy in sight though was 12-year-old Fergus, who was conducting a TV interview. He might have to get used to that because word has it he could be the next big thing.

Fergus's supremely gifted cousin is his inspiration.

He's not alone on that front.

Just before Rory, after two hours of interviews, emerged to show off his US Open trophy on the balcony of Holywood Golf Club, three young boys were laughing and joking as they putted out on the green below.

It's a common sight at the venue, where our youngest major champion began his magical journey.

Like just about every other golf loving kid in Northern Ireland, those lads probably go to sleep dreaming of becoming the next Rory McIlroy. It's a good dream to have. There could not be a better role model.

At the weekend, we watched in admiration and awe as McIlroy produced one of the finest performances in sporting history to romp away with his first major title, following in the footsteps of friend and countryman Graeme McDowell.

With that magnificent victory in the States, Rory confirmed his golfing greatness.

It was a triumph that was celebrated and made front page news all over the planet.

Everybody loves a success story. And this particular Holywood star has got it all — natural talent, a beautiful girlfriend, millions in the bank, wonderful family backing, friends that he can trust and fans that worship him.

The 22-year-old also has manners, grace, style and warmth.

Class act on the course, he's a class act off it too. That's the beauty of McIlroy —he's not just a top golfer, he's a top bloke.

Is it any wonder we felt so much pride in the way that this genuine young man won in record breaking fashion in Maryland?

It looked effortless over there.

And back home, it was the same again.

Some sports stars — are you listening, Tiger? — dismiss the media side of their occupation as an annoyance they can do without, but even with the introduction and interaction of Twitter, which incidentally Rory enjoys, it remains a hugely important gateway between player and the public.

To McIlroy's credit he deals with it superbly. Still tired after those hours of concentration and focus at Congressional Country Club, sponsorship commitments, a TV recording with Ant and Dec and several flights, Rory's schedule from 3pm to 5pm yesterday was taken up by interviews with TV and newspaper reporters.

He was asked the same questions time and time again, but he answered every one like it was

the first time he had heard it. The articulate McIlroy talked about his joy at winning the US Open, his desire to emerge victorious in more majors, his hope that The Open will one day return to Northern Ireland and how he would have to think of a fitting Mother's Day present for his mum Rosie after gifting one of the most prestigious titles in sport to dad Gerry on Father's Day.

He smiled when he spoke about his girlfriend Holly, who was in attendance, and revealed his sadness when asked about the recent trouble in the Short Strand area of Belfast.

He told of his plans to go to Wimbledon to see his pal Rafael Nadal next week and then take in the David Haye world title fight next month, adding that he was grateful to receive congratu

lations from Greg Norman and a lovely letter from Arnold Palmer, though it was messages from his friends and family that meant most to him.

Even when I informed him of the special Rory buns, with his face on the icing, selling out at a Holywood bakery — yeah, I deliver all the tough questions, well I thought he could do with something different — he replied that he hadn't tried any as yet but was keen to do so.

The media business is a piece of cake for this golfing maestro.

Just as he did at the US Open, after the US Masters meltdown, he answered every question put to him.

Then came that moneyshot moment for the photographers, as he walked outside, trophy in hand, to the balcony to huge roars and a spray of champagne.

I've a feeling this won't be the last time Rory will be rejoicing in major glory.

Few will merit it more.

Rory McIlroy — major champion, Holywood hero, outstanding ambassador and genuinely decent guy — Northern Ireland is lucky to have you.

Belfast Telegraph


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