Monday 20 November 2017

'He was humble and courteous, not one bit of arrogance . . . '

Brian McGrory

The following piece appeared in the Boston Globe on Wednesday . . .

Barney Murphy is a 49-year-old Irish-born cop on Cape Cod with a golf game so utterly hopeless that he can't bring himself to keep score. Rory McIlroy is the new United States Open champion, a 22-year-old Northern Irishman who has captured the hearts and hopes of the entire golfing world.

Beyond their shared heritage, they are an unlikely pair.

Yet, it says a lot about each of them that they had such a grand time on Monday afternoon when Murphy, a decorated lieutenant and canine officer with the Barnstable sheriff's office, gave McIlroy a police escort from a charity appearance at Willowbend Country Club in Mashpee to Logan Airport for his flight back home.

McIlroy could have ridden in one of the chauffeured cars in back with his father and the US Open trophy, but he chose to ride shotgun with Murphy, even playing with Jaxx, the unimpressed Dutch shepherd police dog lazing in the backseat. As the cruiser motored down Route 3, lights flashing, they talked about life, about home, and about the whims of fate that landed McIlroy at the top of the sporting world.

"He was absolutely a normal guy,'' Murphy said. "He asked if he could ride in the cruiser. He said he really liked dogs. You know he's not going to become anything but a normal guy, because he's so down to earth.''

Along the way, Murphy had an idea.

He pulled out his iPad, tapped Skype, and called his sister, Joan Dodd, back in Dublin.

"You'll never guess who I have with me,'' Murphy said.

"Jaxx?'' she said, mostly because the camera was trained on the dog.

Murphy spun the tablet and there was Rory McIlroy, a national hero, waving to a shocked fan back home.

"She didn't know what to say,'' Murphy laughed yesterday. "She yelled for my nephew, Sean. He came running down and kept talking about how well Rory did Sunday and that he watched every minute.

"Rory said: 'That's how I started, as a young boy, playing with my father. Keep it up and maybe one day you'll be where I am now.' ''

The ride was just one of many surprises in the day-long visit by McIlroy. First, organisers of the charity tournament weren't sure he would fulfil his commitment a day after winning one of golf's most prestigious prizes, but he did.

Once there, he stayed hours longer than planned, signing autographs for every person in sight.

"He even had his own pen,'' Murphy said.

When it came time to leave, it was Murphy who had the idea of the escort. He called his boss, who gave his approval. Murphy, who was off-duty at the time, assumed McIlroy would ride in the hired cars with his small entourage. But again, surprise.

"He said he'd never been in a police car before and wondered if it would be okay,'' Murphy said.

They talked about growing up in Ireland, about rugby, about their fathers and how they helped their sons. The 90 minutes flew by, even when they hit traffic.

"The whole country was screaming and shouting the day before, and there he is, sitting with me in the car,'' Murphy said. "He was humble and courteous, not one bit of arrogance . . .''

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