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Rory McIlroy's route to success is all in a day's work to dad Gerry


Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

The young woman from the New York Times seemed to have difficulty grasping the concept. Naturally, she was impressed that Gerry and Rosie McIlroy would work all the hours God sent to give their gifted son Rory every opportunity to fulfil his potential.

"So they must have really pushed him to succeed?" she surmised ... then recoiled with surprise when I replied with a firm: "No!"

It was Sunday afternoon at the US Open and Rory McIlroy was romping to his record-breaking victory.

As often happens when a player from abroad is in contention, reporters from his homeland expect the local media to come knocking.

Usually it's a pleasure to oblige ... one rare exception that Sunday was a writer from a Continental newspaper, who approached the Irish contingent and baldly asked: "What is Rory's religion?"

His own business, I retorted instantly, making my annoyance plain.

Yet our friend from the New York Times couldn't have been more polite ... it just seemed difficult to get the message across.

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For sure, Rory McIlroy was introduced to golf as a toddler by his dad, Gerry.

Yet from a remarkably young age, he was driven not by his parents, but by his own passion for the game.

And it is this innate passion within which has made McIlroy and so many other naturally gifted young men and women into sporting superstars.

To illustrate the point, I told my New York colleague of the time Rory first clapped eyes on Tiger Woods.

One evening in the McIlroy household in Holywood, Rory's mum Rosie was in the kitchen when her young son excitedly called her into the living room to watch "this wee boy play".

Of course, it was Tiger. It was 1996 and Woods was playing in the final of the US Amateur Championship.

Rory, just seven, was already tuning into hard-core, late night golf. America, as home of the brave and land of the pushy parent, is more used to hugely imposing and outspoken dads like the late Earl Woods.

Gerry McIlroy is the polar opposite. Where at all possible, he avoids the limelight. Though a splendidly affable chap in private, he prefers to leave public pronouncements to his son and his ever-eloquent clubs.

So it was nice to hear just a few remarks from Gerry at the weekend, in which he modestly outlined why he and wife Rosie sacrificed so much for their son.

The 51-year-old, who used to hold down three jobs toiling 100 hours a week as a cleaner and barman, said: "We worked very hard to get him where he is. If we'd not put the effort in at the time, I could be here wondering what might have happened and regretting not doing it."

It costs a great deal to give the gifted young golfer the opportunities he needs to develop his potential.

For example, McIlroy family holidays were devoted to bringing their son to world class junior events in California and Florida from a very young age.

"It was expensive - hotels, air fares and everything but we worked to get where we are," he said. "We are very lucky with Rory. Of course there are times everyone gets fed up working, but as the years went by Rory got better and better, so it was more of an incentive.

"I didn't mind and Rosie didn't mind. Rory is our only child so you can just do the best you can for them. We didn't know what was going to happen. All we did was try our best for him."

Then came the salient point: "He drove it all," Gerry explained, "We just helped him. You can't push kids into anything, but once he decided he wanted to do it, we were 100 per cent behind him."

With the US Open trophy resting on the sideboard, weighty decisions taken in the past all appear eminently justified - like allowing Rory, with the full approval of his headmaster, leave school in his mid-teens to concentrate full time on playing golf.

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