LOCAL golfers have been helping to celebrate the success of Rory McIlroy in securing victory at the US Open at the weekend.
A number of amateur golfers at Banbridge Golf Club have been recalling fond memories of their playing days with the 22-year-old champ on the amateur circuit.
Connor Doran, Richard Kilpatrick and Rory Leonard all teed off with the young golfing star on Ulster and Ireland teams in the past decade and said the Hollywood boy’s rise to success was a certainty right from the start.
“I suppose it’s hard to know at that young age but he always stood out,” said Rory Leonard. “He was always very talented.” The Banbridge trio played in 2005, 2006 and 2007 tournaments across Ireland with McIlroy - who is the youngest winner of the Major in the last century - and expressed their delight for their fellow golfer.
“He’s a nice guy,” said Rory Leonard. “We met him by chance at a rugby game before Christmas and he stopped to chat and had a drink with us, even though I hadn’t seen him in a while. I watched the tournament on Sunday night and was delighted for him.”
Another local amateur golfer Conor Doran said he hopes to meet up with Rory on his return home to congratulate him in person. “He’s so talented and myself and the guys are really happy for him,” said Conor. “This is just the start of his career.”
Banbridge club professional Jason Greenaway, a friend of Rory’s, said the young golfer has worked wonders for Northern Ireland sport.
“I was glued to the television on Sunday night like everybody else,” said Jason. “To see him and Graeme win it back-to-back is just fantastic. And for Rory to have recovered from Augusta in such a short time is such a great success story.” And Jason said Rory’s personality matches his calm and down-to-earth playing nature. “With Rory what you see is what you get. He’s a very grounded person and I think it shows.”