British Open champion Rory McIlroy was yesterday unable to show off his prized Claret Jug to the North’s political leaders, admitting it needed a clean after a night of celebrations.
The three-time Major winner apologised for turning up empty-handed to Stormont Castle in Belfast on the latest leg of his victory tour.
On Monday night, the jug took pride of place on the table of an upmarket Belfast nightclub as McIlroy, 25, partied with friends. However, it was nowhere to be seen yesterday as the newly crowned Open winner stopped by for an informal chat with the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
“I am sorry I don’t have the Claret Jug, it’s not going everywhere with me,” the golfing superstar said outside Stormont Castle.
“It actually needs a bit of a clean. It’s an amazing trophy and something that I am obviously very proud of and hopefully there are many more to come.”
McIlroy, who is from Holywood, Co Down, first visited Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness three years ago in the wake of his first Major win — the 2011 US Open.
“I am obviously very, very proud and honoured to come back home and come home as an Open champion and to be congratulated by everyone,” said McIlroy.
“I am very proud to be from Northern Ireland, I am very proud of where I come from, and I will never lose touch of that, and I will never lose sight of that — I will never forget where I come from.
“To be able to share these sort of moments with people from back home and close friends and family, it’s absolutely wonderful.”
Mr Robinson said he hoped McIlroy could complete the grand slam of Major wins with victory at the Masters at Augusta next April. “We are really proud of him,” said the Democratic Unionist leader.
“Not only in terms of the achievements of a fantastic golfing career and the competitions he’s won but he is a tremendous ambassador for Northern Ireland.”
“He gives the kind of messages about Northern Ireland that we want people to hear.”
Mr McGuinness said the Open represented “undoubtedly the greatest prize in world golf”.
“It’s been absolutely a huge buzz for all of us,” he said. “We are living in a world now where there’s an awful lot of sadness.
“This just brings so much happiness and joy to all of the people here that one of our own is seen to be one of the greatest golfers in the world today. No mean achievement by the age of 25.”
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