When Graeme McDowell was asked at Congressional what they put in the water in Ireland to produce so many major champions in such a short space of time, he pointed to a tall figure emerging from the clubhouse.
Gesticulating in the direction of three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, McDowell said: “Padraig won three Majors in the space of five – they build us tough in Ireland and Rory has got some serious talent in his body and it’s great to see him.”
McIlroy’s eight-stroke victory in the US Open meant back-to-back major wins for Northern Ireland and the Golfing Union of Ireland system.
McDowell finds it “surreal” himself yet he sees some method to the madness.
“It’s the golf courses, junior programmes, coaching programmes, the Golfing Union of Ireland’s programmes,” the Portrush man said. “It’s whatever the way they build us in Ireland. They build us tough.”
Roscommon man Eugene Fayne, the President of the GUI, attributes a great deal of McIlroy’s success to his parent Gerry and Rosie. But he knows the the GUI has made its contribution.
“As President of the Golfing Union of Ireland I’d say to you, of course our coaching systems and our elite coaching programme has been a huge factor in Rory’s development,” he said. “Obviously it’s not the only one but if you take the general progression of the game and of Irish players hitting the world stage in the last, whatever, eight years, all of them are guys that have come through the Golfing Union’s coaching programme.
“Parenting is a factor, his parents are excellent people, excellent. But Rory has got a unique star quality and he has a technical ability that is second to none. More particularly he has a mind and a deportment that allows him to produce that ability.”
Whether or not Ireland can continue to churn out the stars remains to be seen but the GUI has put mechanisms in place that will enhance the odds of seeing young players such as 22-year old Paul Cutler (Portstewart), 21 year old Alan Dunbar (Rathmore) or 18-year old’s Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) and Paul Dunne (Greystones) follow in McIlroy’s footsteps.
“But about eight years ago we underwent a strategic review in the union and we established at that stage coaching programmes at the various levels, junior, mid and elite,” Fayne explains. “Rory would be a guy who has come through all of those programmes.
“Our elite coaching programme is also entry in and competition in a number of selected events outside of your country, some in the UK, outside the Continent and even some as far away as Australia.
“Once a guy enters the elite stage of our coaching he is then not alone coached but is given the opportunity to compete with people of like ability internationally, which is a huge thing.”
Watching players like Dunne shoot 72 in horrific conditions on the final day of this year’s Irish Amateur Open to finish third in a high class international field is heartening.
Cutler, Dunbar and McElroy are in the frame for this year’s Walker Cup team - a true testament to the strength of golf in Northern Ireland these days.
It seems like that Cutler - the winner of this year’s West of Ireland and Irish Close titles - will be the first to dip his toes into the professional ranks this autumn
The last man to pull off that double was a certain McIlroy from Holywood in 2005 and 2006. If he has even a small portion of McIlroy’s talent, the future of Irish golf is in good hands.
Let the conveyor belt rattle on.