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Rory McIlroy: Holywood star has hit the big time

The waves of applause just kept coming at Rory McIlroy's home club as he strode towards US Open success.

Holywood Golf Club in Co Down, Northern Ireland, was packed with friends and well-wishers who cheered every great shot with clenched fists at the clubhouse where it all began.

They were duly rewarded when he showed none of the nerves that had derailed his bid for the Masters earlier this year and this time completed the job to seal his first major.

Back home it was a sweet moment for his supporters at the club.

A photograph on the wall showed him after he won his first schoolboy trophy, fresh-faced and dressed in a green blazer. He took the Ulster Boys Under 18 Championship in 2003 but adopted the sport much earlier.

McIlroy used a plastic club and balls to practice his swing, aged two or three, in the club lounge.

Friend Owen Gunning said: "He was just unbelievable to watch, he had the perfect swing."

As he got older his father Gerry would take time out from working behind the bar to teach his only son. Soon the young protege was overtaking him.

He would practice for hours upon end on the lush fairways overlooking Belfast and the picturesque Belfast Lough.

Mr Gunning recalled how McIlroy would play two rounds in a day and then return for another round at night.

"Rory is a fantastic fella, so down to earth yet such a professional," he added.

"He mixes with the young lads and would always say hello and always has time for you. He is cool, calm and collected on the golf course."

Also on the wall was a photograph of McIlroy with the shield he won last year in the Quail Hollow Championship in the US.

Underneath it was the slogan: Living the Dream.

Club President Derek Reade paid tribute to McIlroy's parents Gerry and Rosie for helping make that dream a reality.

"Gerry put so much energy and time into Rory's coaching," he said.

"He would have done anything to support his son."

He said McIlroy was incredibly dedicated.

"Rory did not let sex, drugs and rock and roll get in the way," he added.

He said it was good to see a local person doing well on the world stage.

"The youngsters worship him, they mimic the style of his hair, his mannerisms," he added.

"He has the perfect swing and hits it for miles."

Robert Cooley, 62, a former secretary and treasurer of the club, has been a member for 25 years.

"His talent was recognised at such a very young age," Mr Cooley said.

"You could see there was something special there."

He added: "He had a self-determination that from an early age to wanted to be a golf professional, not only a golf professional, he wanted to be the best golf professional."

By the age of 13 or 14 he was far superior to most of the adult members.

"He could drive the ball forever, chip the ball better, he was a great putter.

"He has an analytical brain and he has the mettle and fortitude to be the best," Mr Cooley said.

He added: "Every young golfer wants to conquer, it is a game that you always try to conquer but it is a game that always brings you back to earth when you think you are the best it will throw you."

The club is open to all classes of people. It was founded in 1904.

Mr Cooley added: "It is often criticised for its steep slopes, they often say you have got to have one leg longer than the other to be able to play it."

Club professional Stephen Crooks predicted McIlroy would go on to win seven major trophies, catapulting him into the league of Tiger Woods.

"He is just unbelievable, I just think this is a stepping stone to what is going to materialise over the next 10 years," he said.

"He will be world number one, he will win seven major trophies and he will dominate golf."

Belfast Telegraph


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