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Associated Press/Photo by Eric Gay

Rory's great story

Sports | Golf's new superstar doesn't act like one

Issue: "Focus on Mitt Romney," July 16, 2011

Rory McIlroy's narrative arc from choke to champion is well worn. Golf fans followed closely the young Northern Irishman's journey from Sunday collapse at Augusta to record-setting U.S. Open victory just two months later. But off the beaten path of that oft told tale of resilience lies a story about the sacrifice of decent people and the gifted son they helped shape.

Gerry and Rosie McIlroy know something about resilience. Working-class people from outside the gilded gates of golf's country club center, Rory's parents struggled to keep up with his burgeoning game. At times, Gerry held as many as three jobs, grinding away for close to 100 hours a week to raise funds for overseas trips to the best junior events.

But unlike many parents to talent, the McIlroys were content to let Rory dictate the pace. He chose full speed ahead. By his mid-teens, he left school to concentrate on golf full time. By 2008 he had climbed into the top 100 in the world rankings and in 2009, at age 19, he won the Dubai Desert Classic to reach No. 16.

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Despite the early success, McIlroy did not betray the lessons of his upbringing. "This is my first win, and it's hard to win," he said at the time. That same earnest ethic would reemerge this past April in trying times: "There are a lot worse things that can happen in your life," he said after squandering a four-shot lead on the final day of the Masters. "Shooting a bad score in the last round of a golf tournament is nothing in comparison to what other people go through."

This from a 21-year-old-unusual perspective born of humble beginnings and a sort of grounded decency. No hiding. No sulking. No rancor directed at the press. Just sober, self-aware reflections on a day he'd like to forget. And while a U.S. Open trophy will no doubt aid that project of amnesia, many will long remember McIlroy's handling of his Augusta disaster as the moment a star worth calling super emerged.

Sporting faith

The sports world has produced a high volume of conversation on faith in recent weeks. Here's a sampling of statements that triggered considerable buzz:

"It's been a disaster year, but you know I've been praying and I have my family and I love tennis. . . . I never cried with joy for anything."

A tearful Serena Williams on her journey back to a first-round win at Wimbledon after an 11-month break from competition due to injuries and health problems.

"I think NBC has a long record of being very liberal, and at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God."

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., on NBC's omission of "under God" from the pledge of allegiance during its broadcast of the U.S. Open golf tournament. He later apologized after theologically liberal clergy objected to the comment.

"It's attractive when girls have faith."

Denver Broncos quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow when asked by Washington Post reporter Sally Quinn if he would ever consider marrying outside his Christian faith.

"The issue of lesbianism is common. I came to realize it is not a physical battle; we need divine intervention in order to control and curb it. I tell you it worked for us. This is a thing of the past. It is never mentioned."

Soccer coach Eucharia Uche on how she used prayer, Bible studies, and pastoral counsel in readying the Nigerian women's national team for competition in the World Cup in Germany.

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