SOME of Donegal’s leading golf representatives are this week celebrating Rory McIlroy’s euphoric rise to world number one.
The Hollywood, Co Down, native moved to the top of the world rankings after winning the Honda Classic by two strokes in Florida on Sunday.
McIlroy has played at a number of the county’s links courses in recent years. The inaugural Rosapenna Senior Scratch Cup in 2005, which is staged on both the Old Tom Morris Links and the testing Sandy Hills Links was won by McIlroy, who was just 16 at the time. He returned two years later but despite starting well was beaten by a single stroke by Connor Doran from Banbridge Golf Club.
“I was delighted to see Rory win on Sunday night and reach world number one,” said Frank Casey Jnr, Rosapenna’s director of golf, who is an acquaintance of McIlroy’s.
“With the way he’s been playing over the last six months it was only a matter of time. We remember his time here. When he came first in 2005 there was a lot of talk about Rory and he didn’t disappoint. In 2007, he had improved as a golfer, although was unfortunate not to win then.
“Even in between those, in June 2007, Rory came over and stayed in the hotel and practised before winning the Silver Medal (for best amateur) at the Open in Carnoustie before being ranked best amateur in the world. I was at the Dubai Desert Classic last month and spoke with Rory there. It was nice to be remembered by him and he’s such a grounded young man. He’s very busy but of course we’d love to see him back in Donegal in the future.”
Back in 2004, McIlroy took part in the Golfsure Irish Amateur Close Championship at Donegal Golf Club at Murvagh. The then 15-year-old eased round in 74 shots, one over.
Just days after he claimed the US Open at Congressional last June, McIlroy was back at the Ballyliffin course that helped make him the hottest ticket in golf. Ballyliffin’s pair of championship courses are among the top links courses and in 2006 McIlroy shot a course record 67 on the Old Links, aged just 17.
“It is just great for golf,” said Bundoran professional, David Robinson. “Everybody is talking about it and it will encourage young people to take up the sport. Rory was so impressive in the final round and his course management was excellent.”
Narin & Portnoo professional Connor Mallon says McIlroy’s achievements just show what’s possible for young players. “It was just fantastic and now with the Irish Open in Portush and Donegal having seven of the top links courses in Ireland, there has to be a spin-off for the county,” Mallon said.