Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How the ‘West’ made Irish golf, and Rory McIlroy, a global golfing powerhouse – News – Irish Golf Desk

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“But I remember there was a melee, and I was standing talking to a few people, and I said, ‘Gee, it’s fantastic, we won the Ryder Cup’. And all of a sudden, this young man starts running up the fairway and it’s Rory. And I said, jeez, I hope there’s nothing wrong. And he came up, and he gave me a big hug. And he said, ‘Des, it was brilliant working with you this week. Thanks for all your help’. And when people talk about Rory McIlroy, that’s the Rory I know.”

McIlroy and Lowry played with the joy and enthusiasm of their amateur days en route to victory on Sunday, and for Smyth, that shows a love of the game that sums up what “the West” means to Irish golf.

“The most important thing about this game is the friendships you make,” said Smyth, who remains friends with Co Sligo’s famous Flanagan family more than 50 years after first travelling to Rosses Point to see if he had the right stuff to win a major and perhaps become a touring pro.

“They’re lifelong friendships. They’re there forever. And that’s the beauty of our game. We all love it. So I think we can be very thankful that we found this game or that it found us. And it’s been a great journey. I’ve loved every minute of it. I played tournament golf for 46 years, and I’m retired now. There have been highs and lows. Brilliant. 

“It’s a game I’ve loved, and I know everyone in this room feels the same. 

“So I just want to say thank you very much (to Co Sligo) from all the players. Our recent West winner is in front of me. I hope you fulfil all your ambitions, whatever they are. Think of Rory McIlroy. You never know.”

The 100-year history of the West of Ireland Championship is beautifully captured in the brilliantly produced book — The West of Ireland Amateur Open Golf Championship, Centenary History 1923-2023 by Brendan Cashell. It is available from County Sligo Golf Club for €25.

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