Sunday 25 March 2018

Golfing royalty tees off for Rory

Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Sporting, entertainment and even royalty of the blue-blooded variety all descended on the K-Club yesterday as golfer Rory McIlroy hosted a special charity Pro-Am.

The wealthy and well-known rubbed shoulders with professional golfers all in the name of a good cause at the Kildare club before the real action gets underway at the Irish Open this morning.

The team listings read like a comprehensive who's who of Ireland's elite.

On McIlroy's team were JP McManus and AP McCoy. On his dad Gerry's team One Direction's Niall Horan took to the green, trailed by a crowd of teenage fans keen for selfies and signatures. Only Rory managed to outnumber the singer when it came to supporters in his wake.

Brian O'Driscoll, Prince Albert of Monaco and Michael Smurfit also got a round in.

For the former world number one, it was a chance to feel out the course where previously he had only played 27 holes.

All eyes will be firmly on McIlroy this week, something he admitted may have cost him the Irish Open in the past.

"I think [it was] the pressure of playing at home, we don't get to play at home very often and maybe trying a bit too hard and putting a bit too much pressure on myself," he said when asked about why his record in the competition has been so poor.

"It'd be huge [to win]. I think anyone that plays professional golf, they dream of winning at home.

"Winning your home open in front of your home crowd and don't get very many opportunities to do it so it would be very special."

Despite feeling confident about his game, it appears that the champion golfer is still feeling the weight of performing for his home-grown supporters, so much so that he predicts it will be more pressurised than the Olympics.

"Honestly, because you're not at home I don't feel like there's as much [pressure], honestly I feel like it will be like any other event," he said.

"I feel like I represent Ireland and Northern Ireland every week that I play so I don't think it will be any different really. I'll probably feel more pressure here this week than I will there."

But the Pro-Am was not about pressure or performance but promotion - Rory's charity the Rory Foundation was the star of the show and he was keen to remind everyone that raising funds for local charities was the main aim of the day.

As the sun shone in Straffan, the true nature of the event emerged time and again.

Before teeing off Rory posed with a patient of the Lauralynn Hospice, Martin Gibson O'Gara (6), and his family. Afterwards his mum Sarah told the Irish Independent that it was a "special day" for the family.

At the driving range, three-year-old Sevie Trowlen showed spectators why he has already been tipped as the next Rory McIlroy as he demonstrated his swing.

The hordes of teens following their favourite popstar around weren't remotely out of place, as everyone on the course from AP to Rory himself was generous with their time, signing dozens of autographs.

Irish Independent

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