China, Asia bubbling and ready to explode
As it happens, the December issue of Golf magazine has a piece with Gerry McIlroy, the father of world number one Rory, who talks of how his wunderkind initially held the club left-handed and how it was that Rory’s invitation to play in the Junior World Championship in Doral in Florida provided a life-changing discussion with the instructor Jim McLean.
Blew field away
Of the trip, Gerry remarked: “. . . he just blew the field away. And he was only nine. Jim McLean said to me, ‘this kid’s good. I’m tellin’ you Mr McIlroy, this kid has something’. So I went home and said to Rosie, ‘we should put more effort into Rory’. At that time in Ireland, nine years of age, there were no tournaments. They were all in America. So we used to work at three jobs. I used to clean in the mornings – locker rooms, toilets. You had to get the money. I’m working class, you know? I cleaned the rugby club, cleaned all the toilets and the showers and the bar.
“And then in the afternoons, from 12 o’clock until six o’clock, I used to tend bar at a bar in Holywood and then at seven o’clock at night, I was at the rugby club, at the bar again. So I did that for eight years, 90 hours a week. Rosie worked for an American company, 3M, night shift, because I got home at 12. she worked 12 to 7.30am, on the line. But it’s all paid off. We’re having a good time now!”
If that work ethic might have ironic similarities with the old communist regime, it instilled an ethic of its own into the young golfer who didn’t shy away from work on his game. As McIlroy Senior explained it: “One different thing about Rory is, you see kids at golf clubs, they’re hanging about the pro shop and the putting green. Rory used to take himself out on his own and practice on the course . . . he used to practice for hours on the course. It all paid off.
“He wanted to go to the range one morning and Rosie said ‘they’re not going to be open, Rory. There’s snow’. He said: ‘They’ll open for me’. So she took him and they did, they put 200 balls out, cleaned away a spot in the snow. Another time we’d gone to the range and played and we were at home, and Rory said: ‘Dad, could we go to the range?’ I said, ‘Rory, we’ve gone to the course, we’ve gone to the range’. He said, ‘Dad, do you want me to get any better?’”
The new kids on the block, be they from China or the more traditional golfing powers, have a tough act to follow. But follow, it seems, they will.