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Rory McIlroy, The making of a champion

In May 2012, Gerry McIlroy penned this piece about his son

All Rosie and I ever wanted to do was give Rory the best possible chance to do what he loved. There was never any other agenda and I’m sure if you asked Kenny and Marian McDowell, they say the same thing about Graeme. Becoming a golfer wasn’t our dream, it was Rory’s dream. We just did our best of give him everything we could to help him make his dreams come true. It looks as though all the hard work has been worthwhile. But even if Rory had never made it as a professional golfer, we’d still be immensely proud of him, he’s such a good lad.

I played golf because, as a boy, I lived in a council house 200 yards from Holywood Golf Club. I spent all my summers there with my two brothers and my dad. I used to bring Rory to the practice ground when I played plenty.

I’ve got a picture of him hitting a ball when he is one year, nine months old and wearing cords and a sweater knitted by his mother! He loved it from the time he was a toddler. He was holding a golf club before he could walk. He’d be sitting in the pram with a plastic golf club in his hand and Rosie will tell you that we were often woken up by the belt of a little plastic club over the head.

It soon became apparent that Rory had a real talent for the game so I handed him over to Michael Bannon, who was the professional at Holywood, and let him get on with it. We’ve never looked back and Michael’s still with him to this day.

We always been happy to let Rory take responsibility for his own actions. He’s always been a very good lad, never in any trouble. So we have always been happy to give him space and learn things himself and then come to us for advice.

As he got better and better at such a young age we wanted to make sure he got all the opportunities he could to improve his game. We didn’t have much money but we worked as hard as we could so we could say that we gave him the very best chance we could by sending him away to compete in tournaments all over the world from Hawaii to San Diego and Hong Kong.

He just lived at the golf club. You couldn’t get him to come in out of the cold half the time. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had to drag him in off that course when it was lashing rain and  his little hands were almost blue from the cold. Even when we got home he’d be chipping balls over the settee or standing the hall and chipping balls through the open door of the washing machine.

Yes, Rosie and I worked hard to give Rory everything we could. But that’s what all parents do. You do everything you can.

I’d work from 8am to noon as a cleaner at a sports club and from 12 to 6 I was a barman at Holywood Golf Club. Then, after going home for tea, I’d return to the sports club from 7pm-midnight to work behind the bar. I am a working-class man and that’s all I knew to get the money we needed for Rory to be able to learn and compete at golf.

Rosie worked the nightshift at the 3M factory so we lived off my wages and saved Rosie’s so we could take Rory away to the Junior World’s in San Diego in the summer time. It became our summer holiday. It was hard, but as Rosie says, we can’t say we didn’t give him.

Sometimes, you might get a bit browned off or tired but Rosie would always cheer me up. ‘Gerry,’ she’d say, ‘one day this could be all worthwhile’. We wanted to give our child a chance — after all, he was the only one we have.

When Rory was 17 I decided to take more of a back seat and allow him to do his own thing. I stopped caddying for him and not long after that and the Walker Cup at Royal County Down, he turned professional.

He was well looked after by Chubby Chandler and while we were always there as his parents to offer advice we weren’t going to be sports parents, just his mum and dad.

There have been more highs than lows since he turned professional. Watching Rory win his first tournament in Dubai was a huge thrill for us all and while we are disappointed for him after the Masters last year, we knew he’d be fine once we spoke to him on the phone afterwards.

Rosie was very upset but Rory said, it’s just a golf tournament Mum. He knew he’d learn from it and he did. Being at Congressional to watch him win the US Open last year was just the greatest thrill you could imagine.

We’re so proud of everything he’s achieved. Being there at the Honda Classic when he became world number one was a very special day. But what’s more pleasing is seeing the way he handles everything. You just want your child to do the right things and to treat people with respect. Everything else is a bonus and it’s been one hell of a journey for us all so far. 

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