Letter from the editor: Meeting Rory McIlroy

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The Independent Online

Editors can be very blasé. This is particularly the case with ones who have been around a while, like yours truly. (I know what you’re thinking: how does he manage to look so young? You’re not? Oh, well...)

Anyway, we lead extremely privileged lives, and we get to meet many influential, inspiring and interesting people. In my time, I have sat next to Bill Clinton at lunch — there’s a column on its own — and had the very moving experience of meeting Nelson Mandela. I have seen the inside of No 10 on more than one occasion, and have even had the honour of being cold-shouldered by the Duke of Edinburgh. So I hope you understand that I’m not being fancy when I say that my bar is quite high when it comes to being impressed.

In that context, I can’t fully convey what a thrill it was to meet the golfer Rory McIlroy this week. In case you’re not aware of Rory’s accomplishments, he recently became, at 22, the youngest winner of the US Open for almost 90 years. And he didn’t just win: he spreadeagled the field behind him, taking the trophy by eight shots and immediately inviting comparisons to Tiger Woods (but in a good way). But meeting him was a pleasure way beyond the opportunity to pass on some awestruck congratulations. He was charming, modest and level-headed.

Before he took part in the US Open, he went on a Unicef visit to Haiti. It was the effect of this trip that kept him calm as he closed in on victory. “I wasn’t really nervous at all,” he told me. “The visit to Haiti put everything in perspective: it made me realise that, in the end, it was only a game of golf.”

In an era when sporting heroes increasingly are shown to have feet of clay, here is a young man from Northern Ireland who, you feel, will know how to handle the success that undoubtedly lies ahead of him. Oh, and thanks for having your picture taken with me. Caption: One of the world’s great golfers (and Rory McIlroy)!