US Open champion Rory McIlroy took some of his first golf swings in the backyard of a house in Banbridge.
At just 18 months old little Rory is pictured here eyeing up his shot as his proud dad Gerry looks on at their aunt’s home on the Scarva Road.
The golfing legend’s great-aunt Frances McDonald, housekeeper at Seapatrick Parish House, recalled the nerves and excitement as she and her family watched the little boy they remembered playing in the backyard lift the US Open trophy last week.
The McDonald family, who are related to Rory on his mother’s side, gathered at Frances’ son Paul’s house to watch history in the making as the 22-year-old won his first ever Major.
“Between tears flowing and all the excitement it was unbearable to watch at times,” Frances told the Leader.
The mother-of-three said she has fond memories of Rory playing at her home as a toddler.
“He first played with his wee putter on my back lawn,” she said. “I remember him well in that wee Aran jumper. He could barely hold the club,” she laughed. And Paul, a keen golfer with Banbridge Golf Club, said he loved to watch as Rory improved on his natural talent year after year. “I remember him coming down to the house like it was yesterday,” he said.
“He loved golf from an early age and I remember him with his wee plastic clubs. I’ve walked around courses with him and supported him at various local golf tournaments and would hope to get a game with him at some point but he has a very hectic schedule.”
But Paul might get the chance to do just that in August when he takes part in Rory’s charity golf tournament at the Hollywood club. While Rory has not yet announced whether he will be playing on the day Paul said the opportunity to play with his uncle Mickey and Rory’s dad Gerry is one he is very much looking forward to.
“Rory will obviously be there on the day and there’s every chance he will play with some of his friends,” said Paul. “There will most likely be a few celebrities and of course some other big golfers there so it will be a great day.”
Until then Paul has a family holiday to look forward to after winning big on a bet he made on Rory taking the top spot at the Open a week before the tournament began. “We knew he had talent from a young age and to see him have that success at the US Open was just brilliant,” said Paul . “He had some things to work out after Augusta and he clearly sorted those out and came back even stronger. We are all over the moon for him and hope to meet up soon.”
And the young champion is as modest today as he ever was, according to Frances. “He is just a lovely young man,” she said. “He’s so grounded and down to earth and we’re absolutely delighted for him.”