Irish Open: Billionaires give €140k to cancer charity to play a round with Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy boosted the coffers of his charity foundation by over €140,000 when he threatened to play solo in yesterday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Pro Am at Royal County Down golf club.
The world number one golfer spoke in jest, but the assembled audience at a fundraiser held for the Cancer Fund for Children at Daisy Lodge, near Newcastle, on Tuesday night, got the message.
Within minutes, the chance to play with the Co Down star was auctioned for £100,000 (€141,433).
The successful bidders were American businessmen Billy Rosenthal, Fred Carillo and Tom Iovino, and they joined Mr McIlroy on the first tee yesterday.
And the wet weather failed to put a dampener on proceedings, as well-known faces such as AP McCoy, Patrick Kielty, James Nesbitt and JP McManus rubbed shoulders with golfing stars such as Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia.
Speaking after playing in the event, McIlroy commented: "Well, the auction was going way too slowly for my liking, so I put my hand up and said: 'I'll pay a hundred grand to play by myself.' There was a few billionaires in that room, so that got their hands in their pockets."
Mr Rosenthal said he was delighted that he and his amateur playing partners got the opportunity to play with McIlroy who, in turn, appreciated their contribution. "We had a good time out there and the guys that I played with donated a lot of money to charity to play with me today," said McIlroy.
"I was very appreciative of that. I made sure that they had a good time out there," he added.
The 26-year-old native of Holywood, near Belfast, also revealed that any prize money he receives from the Irish Open - which is completely sold out - will be donated to the Daisy Lodge Centre.
Ideally that would amount to €416,660, which is the winner's purse in the star-studded golf tournament.
"The European Tour approached us about getting involved, and we thought it was a perfect way to really kick-start the foundation and really start to help other people because of who I am and what I do," explained McIlroy.
"If I play well, and if I do well in the tournament, then all the money that I earn is going to go towards that, as well. So I'm not really playing for myself this week.
"I'm playing for a lot of other people and it gives me an incentive to go out there and enjoy it and try to play well," said the golfer.
The event on Tuesday night at Daisy Lodge featured an hour-long performance by the Riverdance troupe and a special Q&A session between McIlroy and fellow Tour stars Fowler and Garcia.
Comedian Patrick Kielty was compere for the event, which ended at 10pm to ensure an early night for the golfers.