Wednesday 25 April 2018

The people who helped 'Wee Rory' become a superstar

Karl MacGinty

His Parents Gerry and Rosie

THE US Open comes to a climax each year on Father's Day and McIlroy's dad Gerry certainly has played an influential role this week at Congressional.

Not least on Saturday and yesterday in helping his son kill time before his ludicrously late weekend tee-off times for the final group at the US Open... Kenny McDowell did the same job for his son Graeme at Pebble Beach last year.

"It's been so nice to have breakfast with him every morning this week and just talk about the day ahead, and what's going to happen," said McIlroy upon arrival at Congressional shortly after lunchtime yesterday.

"We've talked about how I've been feeling," the youngster added. "So it's just been good to have him here, as he's always been so positive. It's nice to have those reassuring words in your ears."

Yet rearing Rory has been an astonishing team effort by Gerry and his wife Rosie. His dad held down up to three jobs at a time and Rosie worked shifts in a factory as well as at home to provide the opportunities that helped the youngster fulfil his astonishing potential.

"Mum and dad made huge sacrifices for me growing up," said Rory. "They sacrificed summer holidays so they could bring me to play golf all around Ireland and in Europe and the US, yet they never pushed me at all. I wanted to go and do these things and they were very supportive. I'm very thankful to them for how far they've gotten me."

The McIlroys never needed to push their son. Wee Rory has been obsessed by golf since Gerry, the former bar manager at Holywood Golf Club, used to bring him to the club in his stroller.

Until age seven, he used call himself Rory "Nick Faldo" McIlroy, then saw Tiger Woods playing on TV in the final of the 1996 US Amateur Championship and was smitten. "Mum, mum," he called to Rosie in the kitchen: "You've got to come in and see this wee lad play."

In his teens, Gerry and Rosie had a synthetic putting green laid at the gable end of their council house so their son could practise.

As Rory rose ever higher in the lucrative ranks of professional golf, they have moved but the support which nurtured one of world golf's greatest young talents remains unstinting.

His coach Michael Bannon and the Golfing Union of Ireland

THE McIlroys placed their gifted son in the hands of Michael Bannon, then Assistant Pro at Holywood Golf Club, at age five.

Dad Gerry was a near-scratch golfer himself but, typically, recognised that Rory had a better chance of developing his potential in the hands of a professional. "He gave him over to me and kind of let the reins go," said Bannon, now head professional at Bangor Golf Club and still responsible for one of the most elegant golf swings on the world's professional tours.

Elite amateur players like McIlroy are also carefully nurtured by the Golfing Union of Ireland and, in Rory's case, the coaching staff at the Ulster Branch.

"Our coaching systems and our elite programme has been a huge factor in Rory's development and that of many other young Irish players," said Eugene Fayne, attending the US Open in his capacity as president of the Golfing Union of Ireland.

"I think it's reasonable for us to take pride and enormous satisfaction from that," added Fayne. "I think Rory's a wonderful young man. Rory the person, as distinct from Rory the golfer, is such a nice guy and is unaffected by this fame that he has already attained."

His backroom team at International Sports Management

DARREN CLARKE famously first clapped eyes on Rory McIlroy at age 13 when the lad from Holywood first attended his foundation weekend at Dublin's Portmarnock Golf Club.

Clarke gave 'Wee Rory', then just five feet tall, his mobile number and asked him to call, any time, for advice.

The relationship which developed would extend into McIlroy's professional career as he signed up with Clarke's close friend and agent, Chubby Chandler, head of International Sports Management in Manchester.

Chandler provides the support, advice and helps drum up the sponsorship which, along with McIlroy's on-course earnings, have helped him gross €11m-plus since turning professional after the Walker Cup in September 2007.

McIlroy currently lives in a rambling country mansion on an estate near the picturesque Co Down village of Moneyreagh. The property includes a full-length range and a comprehensive short-game and putting area which includes a mock-up of the famous Road Hole bunker at St Andrews.

Yet as a Major champion, McIlroy's earning potential will rocket to an estimated €10m-plus over the next two years.

Irish Independent

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