I have yet to hear of someone who thinks Rory McIlroy’s victory at the US Open was a bad thing for golf. Golf fans—old and new--recognize McIlroy’s landslide victory was impressive, his swing is a thing of beauty and his warm persona is a welcome one on the tour. I do not question how he did it but I do want to know how Northern Ireland has yielded two different champions, back to back.Northern Ireland, one of the four countries of the United Kingdom, is a place that knows violence and bloodshed, as well as questions of allegiance and identity all too well. You will not find a tri-color Irish flag beside Rory McIlroy’s name; he is represented by a white flag with the red hand of Ulster at its center. And just last year, I read, “Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell wins the 110th U.S. Open” on the front of every sports page. Northern Ireland is a country of only 1.7 million, which is 30% of the island’s total population. So what gives? What is the secret to their golfing success?
The May/June 2011 issue of “Ireland of the Welcomes” reveals that “Ireland has over 400 golf courses, including one-third of the world’s links courses, and the 150,000 visitors who played golf here last year contributed an estimated 110 million Euro (US $154 million) to our economy. “ I re-read that surprising information. The Emerald Isle, a nation the size of Indiana has one-third of the world’s links courses—that staggering statistic must have something to do with McDowell and McIlroys’ success. Or so I thought until someone asked me: Does that include Northern Ireland? Honestly, I don’t know.
Said publication was from the Consulate General of Ireland. I could make a guess about that answer, but that would be presumptuous.
Questions of politics and identity are never easy to answer. And today’s Gospel reading on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul is no different. Jesus asks his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" They are reluctant to answer; perhaps they are not sure. They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." But Jesus stays with the question. And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" He asks all of us this question.
And He should. My answer to his question reveals more than what I know about Jesus. It asks me what and who I believe he is. Faith is more than facts and information from our mind; faith asks us to speak from the heart.
When McDowell won the US Open at Pebble Beach in 2010 his words, from the heart revealed his allegiance and his identity. He thanked his friends and “so many Irish people in the crowd cheering me on. I don’t know what it is about the Irish, they seem to be everywhere.”As yet Rory has remained quiet in terms of where his allegiance lies, whether he considers himself British or Irish, unionist or nationalist. The 2010Sports Illsturated Masters Preview says "These are decisions he will have to think carefully about because like it or not, the Irish on both sides of the border are obsessed with the subject. His identity will doubtless be a talking point, perhaps not in America and perhaps not publicly either, but people from Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland are already talking about it and will speculate over it until his identity is revealed."
Are those 400 plus golf courses both Irish and Northern Irish? Is McIlroy’s US Open win a win for Ireland? These are questions, I invite you to think about and answer for yourself.
Rory wins the US Open
Golf Course in Ireland
McDowell & McIlroy