Rory McIlroy Family History


Rory Daniel McIlroy the golfer was born on May 4th, 1989 to Gerry and Rosie McIlroy at Holywood in county Down, Northern Ireland.  He was baptized at the Catholic St. Colmcille’s church where his parents had been married and his murdered uncle buried.

Rory attended a Catholic primary school and the mixed Sullivan Upper School.  His talent in golf was evident early.  According to the Belfast Telegraph, Rory was holding a golf club before he could walk and driving the ball 40 yards when he was two years old. His parents saw something special in him and wanted to give him the best chance possible to succeed at golf.  They worked multiple jobs to be able to afford his golfing expenses.

He started his early golf training with Michael Bannon, the professional at the Holywood golf club, who became his coach and dedicated mentor.

Rory’s rise up the golfing ranks was rapid.  He turned professional in 2007 and won his first major in 2012.  Along with Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, he was one of only three players to win four majors by the age of 25 in 2014.  No further majors followed.  But in 2022 he was still one of the best golfers in the world and a leader in the game opposing the rebel LIV tour.

Sectarian Violence

McIlroy in Northern Ireland could be Protestant or Catholic.  And that mattered when the divide between the two was so large.  Rory is Catholic.  When asked, he would downplay the religious side and just say that he was British or Irish or Northern Irish.  But sectarian violence had come into his family’s history.

There was sectarianism around at Harland and Wolff in Belfast where Rory’s grandfather Jimmy McIlroy worked.  This shipyard built the Titanic in 1912 and still in the 1970’s reserved the plum jobs for Protestants.  Catholics were only allowed to work in the dock area where Jimmy repaired the cranes.

Jimmy had a younger brother, a computer engineer named Joe.  He and his family moved into a largely Protestant area of Belfast called Orangefield. For that, Loyalist groups decided to make an example of him.

On the night of November 21, 1972, the 32-year-old father of four young daughters was fixing the washing machine in his kitchen when a UVF gunman opened fire at him, shooting four times through the frosted glass window and once through the door.

He staggered from the kitchen to his wife in the living room where he collapsed on the sofa. “I put my arms around him and then I noticed my hands were covered in blood,’ his wife told the inquest. “I ran screaming into the street.”

A horrific scene not untypical of those times.  And the McIlroys seem to have decided to turn the other cheek.

Holywood and Golf

Jimmy had moved to the less prejudiced seaside town of Holywood, nearby in county Down.  He picked up golf in his thirties and became the man to beat at the local golf club.

The members at Holywood were united in despising the ultra-loyalist, staunchly Protestant Royal Belfast club up the road. They gave the impression they would sooner play with anyone and beat Royal Belfast than worry about where their teammate went to worship on Sunday morning.

Jimmy passed his love of the game onto his three sons – Rory’s father Gerry and uncles Colm and Brian.  Gerry married Rosie McDonald from Lurgan in county Armagh in 1988 and they had Rory a year later.

They were hard workers.  Gerry would work from 8am until noon as a cleaner at a local sports club and then from noon to midnight (with a one hour break) as barman at the Holywood golf club.  Meanwhile Rosie worked the nightshift at the 3M factory.  It was her wages which were saved to take Rory to Junior Golf Championships around the world.

Rory McIlroy’s Family Tree

  • Jimmy McIlroy (1941-1991) from Holywood, county Down
  • – Gerry McIlroy (b. 1959)
  • – Colm McIlroy
  • – Brian McIlroy
  • Joe McIlroy (1942-1972)
  • – four daughters
  • Danny and Bridie McDonald from Lurgan, county Antrim
  • – Michael (Mickey) McDonald (b. 1967)
  • – Rosaleen (Rosie) McDonald (b. 1968)
  • – Fiona McDonald (b. 1976)
  • – Gregory McDonald (b. 1980)
  • – Leanne McDonald (b. 1984)
  • Gerry McIlroy m. Rosie McDonald in Holywood in 1988
  • – Rory McIlroy (b. 1989) m. Erica Stoll in 2017



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Written by Colin Shelley

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