“With each spring-loaded step forward that Rory McIlroy takes, more belief is instilled right through the talent pool of golf in Ireland. His march to destiny will continue to inspire people to play the game and to strive for success.”
Proud words indeed from Patrick Finn, who runs the Golfing Union of Ireland from its center of excellence at Carton House, a mere 30-minute drive from the heart of Dublin.
McIlroy’s third major title brings the total now to eight major wins since 2007 by golfers groomed under the Golfing Union of Ireland’s elite squad system.
McIlroy is their poster child, having won Irish titles at every age group and at a record-setting pace. Whilst his rise through the professional ranks has been meteoric, the indicators were there from early on.
I first interviewed him in 2004, when he was taking his first, assured steps as a precocious 14-year old in the men’s game in one of Ireland’s amateur “majors,” the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point, County Sligo. He dusted off several international players before going out in the round of 16.
In that interview, he confessed to me that he would eschew the collegiate route and planned to turn professional in three-and-a-half years time, after the Walker Cup at his beloved Royal County Down. He did just that!
Later that summer of 2004, having just turned 15, he would claim the Irish Boys under 18 title and not long after it, the Irish Youths Championship (under 21). It was Tiger-esque!
The following summer, Rory, now 16, would go on to beat all before him in the Irish Amateur Championship.
That run of unparalleled dominance left no-one in doubt that we really had something special on our hands.
It truly was comparable to Tiger Woods, whose storied amateur career (Rory’s specialist subject) included three successive U.S. Junior Amateur championships, followed by three successive U.S. Amateur wins.
Rory has always been special. While not like Tiger, he has assumed the mantle of heir apparent with nonchalance and some modesty.
There will never be another Tiger, but Rory should push on from this further validation of his potential greatness.
His win at Hoylake silenced many naysayers who preferred to dwell on such negatives as Friday blues, his equipment change and a propensity for inconsistency.
Rory’s ability with the driver, added to a rare ability to flight long irons nearer to the pin than any single one of his peers, gives him an advantage that not even Woods could replicate. When he is inspired and comfortable with his swing, he is the best in the world, hands down.
Destiny’s child is now a man, who plays a game with which very few are familiar.
As Tiger Woods' search for a 15th major stretches out now to over six years, the golfing world can breathe a huge sigh of relief as we look to a 25-year old from Holywood, County Down, who has a box office style that is set to thrill fans for many years to come.
Shane O’Donoghue joined CNN in 2011 as the host of monthly programme, ‘Living Golf’. Hailing from Tipperary in Ireland, Shane worked as a presenter and commentator for the national broadcaster RTE for fifteen years. From 2004-2010, he was part of the BBC TV Golf Commentary team, reporting, commentating and interviewing at key events such as The Masters, Open Championships, BMW PGA Championships, Barclays Scottish Open Championships in addition to the Ryder and Walker Cups. For CNN, he was the first journalist to interview Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy together. A fine player himself, Shane regularly takes on the pros on behalf of CNN Living Golf. He has a particular passion for the amateur game, and has written a book called, “Legends in their Spare Time”, about Ireland’s finest amateur players.
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‘Living Golf’ is CNN’s monthly golf show, hosted by Shane O’Donoghue.