Rory McIlroy will fulfil a childhood dream after the four-time Major winner confirmed that he will represent Ireland at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
With Japan expected to be Zika free next summer, McIlroy has nailed his colours to the mast having missed the Games in Rio in 2016. McIlroy has previously declared for Ireland in 2014 and given he is a product of the Golfing Union of Ireland, many felt that’s where his loyalties should lie.
And now, the 30-year old Northern Irishman has agreed that just like rugby and hockey, golf in Ireland is an all-island sport.
“I think as a young boy it was always my dream to play for Ireland,” said McIlroy ahead of his tilt at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
“I wanted to play for Ireland. I was very proud to put on that shirt or that blazer. It’s the same as like the rugby players. There’s players that play for Ulster but they want to play for Ireland. It’s seen as a whole island sport, just like hockey is, just like most of the sports are.
“So then obviously when you put the Olympics into the equation and there’s a choice to be made, you really have to start thinking, okay, well, what are your beliefs and your values? It makes you sort of have to delve a little bit deeper. It’s not just a superficial decision. It’s something that you have to really believe in.”
Given McIlroy was eligible to qualify for Great Britain, and the political tension around such a decision, it’s no surprise that he took time to consider his options before falling on green.
“I’ve thought about that for a long time and in the end, it was the fact that when I was a little boy and I got that first call up to the national squad to go on to Citywest and be a part of the youth system or the boys or whatever, you know, and making that team and playing in home internationals, I was so proud to do that.
“So why would it be any different just because it’s a different golf tournament or because it’s a different arena or a different environment? That was basically what it came down to. I mean, I had an unbelievable amateur career, and I don’t mean that in terms of results, but I mean that in the experiences I had and the trips that I had and the friendships that I made and the friendships that I still have to this day. That was all because of playing for Ireland and getting close to some of those guys.”
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are set for July next year, shortly after the British Open. With McIlroy deciding to skip this year’s Irish Open much to the disappointment of tournament host Paul McGinley and many of his home supporters, would an Olympic medal for Ireland prove enough to repair the damage for our island’s number one golfing talent? Only time will tell.