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Friday 19 January 2018

Delighted hometown finds victory is sweet

Edel O'Connell

'WEE Rory McIlroy', the golfer who left school at 16 to pursue the dream his father worked three jobs to support, has put his tiny hometown of Holy-wood, Co Down on the map with a historic US Open victory.

The morning after the unassuming 22-year-old firmly put the nightmare of his Masters meltdown behind him, locals in his sleepy hometown were ecstatic and a little bleary-eyed.

Elated supporters who had stayed up half the night celebrating Rory's win lined up to purchase some 'Rory buns' -- fairy cakes featuring the golfer's now instantly recognisable face -- which were flying out the door of the local bakery.

People stopped and chatted with the gathering press contingent, reminiscing about a determined little boy who from the age of three could be seen chipping and putting his way around Holywood golf course, snug in his mum's knitted jumpers and with his plastic clubs and watchful dad Gerry by his side.

You could have heard a tee drop on Sunday night at Rory's local clubhouse as relatives, friends and neighbours watched in disbelief as "their boy" decimated a world-class field in Maryland to lift his first major title, breaking several long standing records, including the lowest-ever score.

Back at the family home in nearby Sea Hill Road, Rory's mother Rosie watched her son's glorious triumph on television alone, unable to face the strain of sharing the moment with others.

She then called a small number of family friends to her home to toast his win with a glass of champagne.

Rory's uncle Colm McIlroy was still pinching himself yesterday morning to make sure it had not been all a dream.

He said he always knew his nephew would take a major title, but was surprised at how quickly the tears of disappointment shed at Rory's infamous Masters crash were replaced by tears of joy.

"It was very emotional and very exciting, there were a few tears shed. It is hard to take in at the moment," he said.

Rory's uncle said he was now looking forward to catching up with his nephew for a major family celebration when Rory returns to Northern Ireland.

"We just can't wait until he comes home to congratulate him in person.

"With Graeme McDowell winning it last year and then Rory winning it this year and both of them coming from a small country like this is incredible, it gave us all such an indescribable lift," he said.

Mr McIlroy said his nephew was greatly looking forward to returning to Ireland and "doing a bit of partying and a bit of relaxing" before getting ready for the British Open.

A short distance away from the media gathered at the clubhouse, a bunch of young schoolchildren were practising their putting skills -- each hoping to one day follow in their hero's footsteps.

Inside the clubhouse, the walls are covered in pictures of Rory's journey, including his first professional win at the Dubai Desert Classic two years ago.

The club's general manager Paul Gray is looking forward to finding space for one more.

"Sunday's win will take pride of place once we find a space," he said.

He remembers Rory's early days, spent honing his talents at the club.

"Rory might have been seven or eight, but you'd look at him and think, there is a proper golfer -- he was that good," he added.

Irish Independent

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