Feature Blogs

The Golf Pie 2008: Catching Up With Rory & Oli

Created on Tuesday, 09 December 2008 21:00
Written by Matthew Toomey

 

For the last few years, I’ve dedicated one of my last Film Pie issues for the year to the subject of golf, another great passion of mine. It all started back in 2005 when I had the chance to play in the final stage of qualifying for the Australian Open. I successfully navigated the first stage by holing a tricky putt on the 18th at my home club of Virginia. I then had to fly down to Melbourne to play the final qualifying round at Rosebud Golf Club – on the Mornington Peninsula. I didn’t make it through but I had an amazing experience during the practice round on the Sunday. Here’s what I wrote in my Film Pie newsletter at the time…

 

“After a relaxing morning, I turned up at Rosebud on Sunday, 20 November 2005 at 1pm to play my practice round. Turning up at the 10th tee right on 1pm, I found myself playing with two teenagers I had not heard of before - Rory McIlroy (from Ireland) and Oliver Fisher (from England). Each had their father caddying for them and it was their very first trip to Australia.

 

I’ve seen a lot of young golfers play here in Australia but Rory and Oliver were unbelievably impressive. They shaped the ball in either direction with nonchalant ease. Their short games were also very precise. What I enjoyed most of all was their friendly demeanour and general enjoyment for the game. They had heaps of fun on the course and played a light-hearted match against each other (which Oliver won with a birdie on the final hole). Personality wise, I don’t think I’ve ever played with two finer youngsters. They never took things too seriously and were never upset by an errant shot. Their fathers were also easy-going also and I did my best to answer the questions they all had about Australia (including why there were no kangaroos bounding across the fairways).

 

I felt a bit impolite asking about their golfing history but I knew they had talent. On returning to my hotel room that night, a quick internet search told me all I needed to know. Oliver became the youngest player in Walker Cup history when he competed for the UK & Ireland back in July 2005 (the previous youngest player was Justin Rose). If you don’t know, the Walker Cup is the Ryder Cup for amateurs. Oliver also made the semi finals of the 2005 British Amateur and made the final 32 in the U.S. Amateur (at Merion). Not bad for a 17-year-old!

Rory McIlroy hails from Ireland and this year became the youngest ever winner of the Irish Amateur Close Championship (the previous youngest winner was Ronan Rafferty). Rory also had the chance to compete in three European Tour events in 2005 (although he sadly missed the cut in all three). Not bad for 16-year-old!!!

 

These two are destined for bigger and better things and I hope they have a very successful golfing career. I'd love to be able to gloat one day and say that I played a game here in Australia with Rory McIlroy and Oliver Fisher.”

 

 

I have followed their careers closely ever since and here are my updates from the last 2 years…

 

2006

 

“Since then, Oliver Fisher represented his country in the Eisenhower Cup (the most prestigious team event for amateurs). Fisher finished 5th in the individual rankings. Last week, Fisher turned professional and earned his European Tour Card. This makes him eligible to play in all the big events in Europe in 2007. He is the third youngest player in history (at 18 years and 64 days) to earn his card through the Qualifying School. I hope he has a great season (even more so since he shares the same birthday as me). He has big future.

 

Rory McIlroy also played in the Eisenhower Cup by representing Ireland. McIlroy finished 8th in the individual rankings. Back in August, McIlroy won the European Amateur. This earns him a spot into the 2007 British Open. Last week, McIlroy returned to Australia to compete in the Australian Open for the 2nd consecutive year. With scores of 74-74-76-77, he finished tied for 59th.”

 

2007

 

“In February, Rory went to number 1 in the world rankings for amateur golfers but he lost the spot after a week. In July, he finished low amateur at the British Open. He shot a brilliant opening round of 68 (3 under par) which was the only bogey free first round. He got a lot of television coverage too. He would finish the tournament in 42nd place at 5 over par. In September, he represented Great Britain & Ireland in the 2007 Walker Cup (the Ryder Cup for amateurs) for the first time. He was the youngest member of the team. He won 1.5 out of 4 possible points over the 2 days. On my birthday (September 19), he turned professional, signed with International Sports Management and accepted a few sponsors invites to events on the European Tour. In just his 2nd start, at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, McIlroy finished 3rd and won over 210,000 euro. He finished ahead of most of the strong players in the field including Ernie Els, Paul Casey and Trevor Immelman. The next week, he finished 4th in the Madrid Open. As a result of these two finishes, Rory earned his European Tour card for 2008. He’d won 277,000 euro from just 6 professional starts. This made him the youngest member on the tour.

 

Oliver earned his European Tour card last year and was the youngest player out there until Rory came along late in the year. He played in 30 events in 2006 and made the cut in half of them. He earned 242,000 euro and finished 109th on the Order of Merit. This ensures that he can play on the tour again next year. It’s a solid season for such a youngster and I read a recent interview with him that confirms that he’s a level-headed lad. Keep it going Oli!”

Well another year has passed and the news I can report is even better.

 

Rory McIlroy has had an amazing year. He won 696,335 euro and finished 36th on the European Tour Order of Merit. He had 6 top 10 finishes with the highlight being a 2nd place at the European Masters where he sadly lost a play-off to Jean-Francois Lucquin. McIlroy had a 6 foot putt on the final hole to win the tournament but just missed. He has already started the 2009 season (yes, it starts before the start of the year strangely enough) in blazing fashion with a 2nd place finish at the Hong Kong Open. He didn’t make a single bogey in the final 3 rounds and put up a brave fight. He lost on the second hole of a play-off after Lin Wen-tang made an amazing birdie. He hasn’t broken through for his first professional win but it’s only a matter of time for Rory. He is now ranked 49th in the world and if can keep in the top 50, he’ll earn his first invite to Augusta in April.

 

Oliver Fisher also had his best year as a pro. He collected 594,587 euro and finished 51st on the European Tour Order Of Merit. He had 4 top finishes and almost won the Open de Andalucia back in March. He lost in a play-off to Thomas Levet. It seems that neither Rory or Oliver are having much luck in play-offs. Oliver was recently down in Australia competing in the Australian Masters but he struggled for most of the week and finished well down the leaderboard. Oliver is currently ranked 219th in the world but I’m willing to bet that he’ll be a lot higher than that next year.

 

I stand by what I said three years ago – these two players have a great personality and a great golf game. I hope they each claim their first professional win in 2009 and with a bit of luck, a major championship might also be possible…