RORY McIlroy paid the ultimate tribute to Ballyliffin Golf Club yesterday when suggesting that he would like to prepare for next month’s Open Championship on the picturesque Inishowen club’s links.
ARTHUR DUFFY REPORTS
The 22-years-old US Open champion arrived at the Donegal club at 11.54 yesterday morning by helicopter, for a pre-arranged photo-shoot with leading Eye Wear and Clothing brand, “Oakley.”
And for the popular Inishowen club, the visit will prove to be one of the greatest ever coups recorded by a local organisation.
McIlroy, whose record-breaking exploits at Congressional Golf Club in Maryland just four days earlier, fulfilled his contractual obligations having remained in Ballyliffin for what must have been an exhausting fashion photo-shoot which spanned almost seven hours!
Smiling and happy to have returned to a club he had visited so many times in the past, the Holywood man openly praised the condition of one of the North-West’s top golf courses and hinted that he would consider returning before July 17th next to prepare for the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s (Sandwich), another links course in the south-east of England.
“I hold great memories playing at Ballyliffin,” said the player yesterday. “And it’s possible that I could be back here to prepare for the Open Championship given the quality of the course.
“I’ve played both courses and I think it would be a good venue on which to prepare for the Open which will also be staged on a similar links course next month,” he added.
Despite the fact that the surprise visit had been kept under wraps by the powers that be at the club, McIlroy was delighted with the reception he received and, indeed, facilitated photographs with the US Open Trophy having climbed out of his helicopter on arrival.
He admitted being slightly tired due to travelling back from the States after facing so many media and sponsorships duties but he was, nonetheless, happy to meet his obligations having won his first “Major.”
“It’s been tiring, but I intend to take some time off before preparing for the Open and, who knows, I could be back in Ballyliffin very shortly,” he smiled.
For Ballyliffin Golf Club, it was very much a win-win situation and the club’s 2011 Captain, Mr. Colm McCarroll, was the first to greet the 22-year-old on his arrival.
“I think this visit will prove both a memorable and fabulous day for the club,” he declared.
“The arrangement with the fashion company’s photo-shoot had been agreed some time ago, but to think that Rory would have then gone on to win the US Open and visit us four days later is simply mind-boggling.
“Luck, obviously, played no small part in it, but we’re absolutely delighted to welcome him back to a course on which he has played during the Nick Faldo Series as a teenager.
“He still holds the record of four under par (67) for the Old Links following the modernisation in 2006 and, of course, is a previous winner of the Glashedy Scratch Cup in 2005.
“Just like Nick Faldo in the past, Rory’s involvement with the club has given us all a great boost and, indeed, the fact that Ballyliffin was selected over courses such as Royal Portrush, Portstewart and Royal Co. Down, thanks to our magnificent back-drops, makes us all the more proud,” added the Ballyliffin Captain.
The photo-shoot will now showcase the Inishowen club’s facilities when advertised world-wide through fashionable magazines and media, a service that money simply couldn’t buy!
“The benefit to the club is certainly significant and given the effort that has been put in over the years, to not only attract international clientele, but also to consolidate the appeal the club has within the local North-West community, we believe those efforts have been rewarded,” continued Mr. McCarroll.
Closely Guarded Secret
With the visit having been kept a closely guarded secret for so long, local members flocked to the club for yesterday morning’s arrival and members were permitted to watch McIlroy strike balls towards the final greens on both the Old Links and the Glashedy Links during the shoot.
“Without a shadow of doubt, Rory’s visit will give the club a massive lift and I’ve no doubt it will have a huge impact on the popularity of the club.
“We have developed a great reputation boasting two top class golf courses, not to mention the fact that both are situated in fabulous settings with ideal back-drops for advertising photo-shoots such as this one.
“And for me personally, it’s been the thrill of a lifetime having been made captain of Ballyliffin with the responsibility of welcoming the US Open Champion here with the US Open Trophy four days after he won it America,” concluded Mr. McCarroll.