It’s hard not to like Rory McIlroy.
Once you scratch at the surface you soon discover that ‘our Rory’ is much more than just a golfer, more importantly he’s a decent human being.
After accepting an invitation from UNICEF to become a celebrity ambassador, McIlroy visited earthquake ravaged country Haiti two weeks ago. McIlroy’s decision to spend some time in the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, was as refreshing as it was inspiring. He could have very easily said no to UNICEF but instead he gave up his time to go and see for himself how the Haitian people have coped since the devastating earthquake struck in January 2010.
Images of McIlroy visiting schools, hospitals and talking with children were beamed around the globe. It was remarkable to watch because here was one of the world’s most famous golfers visiting a place in humanitarian crisis only a few weeks before the US Open.
The juxtaposition of McIlroy’s visit to Port-au-Prince and the the US Open is something that should give hope to those of us with a social conscious hope. We live in an era where it’s, sadly, perfectly acceptable for sports men and women to become successful, makes loads of money and treat everyone else around them like dirt. There’s hardly a day goes by that I am not being bombarded with horrific stories about which footballer has had sex with who or which sports star is apparently addicted to making whoopee. McIlroy evokes the opinion that you can be rich, successful and also have a firm grasp on perspective.
County Down man McIlroy has been making the headlines the last few days for his remarkable performance at the US Open. At the time of going to print the Hollywood born golfer led by six shots and I, like most other people reading this column, hope he can go on to win later today.
Earlier this year, McIlroy blew his chances of winning his first major when he threw away a four shot lead on the final day of the US Masters to finish in joint 15th place. It was painful to watch as he shot the worst round in history by any professional golfer leading after the third-round of the Masters.
Nothing could be more agonising for a sports man or women to come within touching distance of glory and then, with a few strokes of a golf club it disappears. Be that as it may, I remember McIlroy’s response after his capitulation. He spoke honestly and openly and I was so impressed with what he had to say.
Basically he alluded to the fact that yes he was devastated but put it in perspective by saying that there are people in the world experiencing much, much worse things than losing their place at the top of the leader board of the US Masters,
McIlroy is only 22 but he appears to be totally grounded in reality. He displays the kind of composure you would expect from a statesperson and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He doesn’t think the world revolves around him and he has no problem in admitting that there are imore important aspects to life than playing 18 holes of golf.
Whilst visiting Haiti it was reported that McIlroy turned to his manager and said that if he ever moans about his hotel room again then his manager is to give him a clout around the head.
I’m sure that McIlroy enjoys the luxuries that accompany his vast wealth, (and why shouldn’t he?), but what makes him a remarkable role model is that he has used his privileged position to try and make a difference.
Many people get on their high horse when former role models i.e. Tiger Woods and Ryan Giggs fell from grace but why not praise a role model when he or she inspires or does something remarkable. It’s too easy to point the finger and pass judgement but people have to be prepared to open their eyes and acknowledge the positive actions of sports men and women.
Obviously playing golf is McIlroy’s main priority, it’s what he’s best at, but it’s delightful to see that through his work as a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF he believes in giving something back and helping others who are in greatest need of support. Like I said, it’s hard not to like Rory McIlroy.