The year is 1999, and a cherub-faced, nine-year-old Irish child is nervously attempting to chip golf balls into a washing machine in front of a live studio audience. The host Gerry Kelly closes by saying, "The Americans have Tiger Woods. We have young Rory and, believe you me, this boy can hit a ball."
The child in question was, of course, Rory McIlroy.
The audience didn't know it at the time, but they were unwittingly watching an Irish version of Tiger Woods' childhood appearance on The Mike Douglas Show from 1978.
Sitting in the audience, Rory's father Gerry looks on proudly. Dad Gerry had missed out on a medal collection ceremony to attend the show, and at the end of the feature Rory presents his father with the medal in the studio.
Twelve years later at Congressional Country Club, a far more pertinent prize would be handed over to his father in the form of the U.S. Open Trophy, along with the message, "Happy Father's Day, Dad—this one's for you."
The Ulsterman's record-breaking triumph at Congressional was all the more remarkable considering the traumatic collapse he suffered when four shots clear heading into the final round of the U.S. Masters just two months prior.
The maturity and humility displayed in dealing with the final-round calamity at Augusta National was extremely commendable and belied his tender years.
In response to his collapse, he explained, "It will be pretty tough for me for the next few days but I will be fine. There are a lot worse things that can happen in your life. Shooting a bad score in the last round of a golf tournament is nothing in comparison to what other people go through."
The magnitude of this statement was vividly sharpened ahead of Rory's U.S. Open triumph during his visit to Haiti. While the majority of U.S. Open competitors were carefully preparing yardages and hitting the practice range, young Rory was carrying out his humanitarian work as a UNICEF Ireland Ambassador in the schools and medical centres of Haiti.
During his visit he explained, "I thought I had perspective before going to Haiti, and then actually seeing it, it just gives you a completely different view on the world and the game that you play." McIlroy also confided in manager Stuart Cage, "If you ever hear me complain about a hotel room again, do give me a clout, won't you?"
It is strikingly clear that the perspective gained from the visit to Haiti, allied with the mistakes learned from the Augusta National meltdown, contributed greatly to Rory's amazing success at Congressional. Indeed, history may eventually determine that his final round at the 2011 U.S. Masters may just prove to be the most important round of golf he ever played.
In summary, it may be appropriate to quote the words of George Washington: "To rectify past blunders is impossible, but we might profit by the experience of them."
You may remember an equally prophetic quote was uttered by Gerry Kelly back in 1999: "The Americans have Tiger Woods. We have young Rory and, believe you me, this boy can hit a ball."
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