Wednesday 22 January 2020

Rory blessed with X-factor of George Best, insists swing coach Bannon

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Karl MacGinty

NOW that Rory McIlroy is the world's No 1 golfer, surely the man who has taught him from childhood must be regarded as the game's No 1 swing coach.

Not that Michael Bannon would ever aspire to such a lofty moniker or consider for one second joining golf's band of celebrity swing gurus.

And Rory McIlroy can rest easy in the knowledge that his long-time mentor is unlikely ever to feel the need to 'reveal all' in an unapproved blockbuster.

Indeed, the Bangor Golf Club professional is more than happy to play a retiring role in one of Ireland's greatest sporting adventures.

While admiring his modesty and respecting his desire to continue in peace teaching players of all abilities and ages from his modest pro shop, Bannon's talent as a coach must be acknowledged.

Now in his 50s, Bannon was the professional at Holywood when he first clapped eyes on 'Wee Rory', son of the golf club's bar manager Gerry McIlroy.

He was asked by Gerry McIlroy to coach Rory when the boy was seven or eight, but deflects any credit for the spectacular results the player has achieved at all levels on his meteoric rise, through the amateur ranks to the pinnacle of the professional game.

SWING

"Rory owns his own swing. He hits the shots. It's not Michael Bannon's golf," he told me last year in the wake of McIlroy's sensational first Major championship victory at the US Open. "I'd say my part is very much guiding it in the right direction.

"I'm not just a technical officer, I also coach him in the positive side of golf and talk to him about course management and all that sort of stuff."

Indeed, Co Down native Bannon, a hurler in his youth before being smitten by golf, sometimes wonders why all this has happened to him.

"I suppose somebody had to do it," he added with a smile. "In truth, I feel very honoured to be able to coach this guy from eight years old to where he is now.

"Rory has the X-factor. It's not definable. Like Georgie Best could take the ball around people or Joey Dunlop looking like he was part of the bike going around a corner. Once I'd watched Rory play, I wouldn't want to watch anybody else hit a ball, his swing is so good."

Bottom line, Bannon has done a world-class job with McIlroy. This quiet man's silence is golden in these mercenary times.

Irish Independent

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