Rory McIlroy tackles pupils' questions for School Report

Rory McIlroy Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption McIlroy has won four majors at the age of 26

How young was Rory McIlroy when he declared he was going to become the world's best golfer and why are Roger Federer and Nelson Mandela two of his role models?

The world number two golfer answered these questions and others about his career and life from BBC News School Reporters at his old school - Sullivan Upper School in Holywood, Belfast.

In your career so far, if you were given the opportunity to replay one shot, which would it be?

I'm afraid there are no replays or second chances in amateur or professional golf, and that's the way it should be. I've missed cuts in big events by one shot - perhaps a putt that didn't fall - and was upset that I'd come so close. But I was missing the point: we have to take the mistakes on the chin, learn from them and try to ensure we hole that putt the next time.

When did you realise that golf was beginning to dominate and that you needed to leave school to fulfil your dreams?

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Compared with Rory McIlroy, aged just 12

I think there came a time - probably when I was about 13 - when I started to struggle with an increasing volume of schoolwork and the demands from my golfing schedule and aspirations. I'm not sure if the decision to leave school was very clear in my mind then but I did know that in the juggling between the two, my energies were most definitely in the golfing direction.

Who are your sporting and non-sporting role models or sources of inspiration?

Leaving golf aside for the moment, I'd choose Roger Federer as a sporting role model, Muhammad Ali for a sporting and non-sporting role model and Nelson Mandela as a true and lasting inspiration. I believe that anybody with Mandela's capacity to endure hardship and then forgive is a born leader and example to us all.

When you were a child did you ever think that you were going to become one of the world's best golfers? When did you start to realise your potential?

I don't really remember, but from about the age of five I told anyone who would listen that I was going to be the best golfer in the world. They were, mostly, kind enough to humour me with a pat on the head and say: "Of course you are, son". But I started to really believe in myself, and my abilities, when I won the World Under-10 championship in Doral, Florida. I was nine and saw for the first time that I was amongst the best players in the world for my age. This was a massive confidence-builder for me.

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Rory McIlroy demonstrates what makes the perfect swing in a 75-second golfing masterclass

If you weren't a golfer, what would you be?

That's such a hard question. I've just been playing golf for so long (I was a two-year-old!) that I find it difficult to imagine another profession. Thinking about it now, though, I can, in some other life, see myself in some kind of sport or fitness instructor's role - perhaps even a physical education teacher. Fitness plays such an important role in my life now, and an integral part of my golf structure, that I think I might be quite good at teaching others the benefits of sport and fitness. But now that I'm getting the hang of this golfing business, I'll stick with it for the meantime.

What has it been like to go from living in Holywood to travelling the world?

I was very excited when I first started to travel so much. In fact, I was amazed that people were paying me to travel to play the game I loved. I wouldn't say the novelty of travelling to great places has completely worn off but it is more like a job now and gets tiring towards the end of a season. Now, the flight I'm most excited about is the one that takes me back to Northern Ireland to visit family and friends.

What was the worst thing you did in school but were never caught for? Did you ever have a detention and, if so, what for?

In all honesty, I never actually did anything wrong (in my eyes, at least) at school or misbehaved in any big way. If it was anything, it was probably just a lot of clowning around. I was detained a couple of times but that was for not handing in homework because I was playing golf or not present because I was playing golf. There was a theme evolving.

What was your favourite subject in school? What other activities did you do at Sullivan?

Sport was an obvious favourite of mine, and not only golf. I was, and still am, a big rugby fan and have stayed friends with the Ulster and Ireland rugby player, Darren Cave, another ex-Sullivan pupil. I still go to all the Ulster and Ireland rugby games when I can. It may come as a surprise but I also really started to get into history while I was at school. I found the projects about World War Two fascinating - perhaps when I get the time again, I could pick up where I left off.

Image caption Class 10S at Sullivan Upper got to ask the sporting hero 10 questions

What is your favourite memory of your time at Sullivan?

The summer holidays? No, I'm joking, of course. I have hundreds of great memories with the friends I made, both during term time and after school. Because I lived so close to the school and walked there every day, I used to enjoy the school bus trips. I'm sure there was an educational angle to the trips (I think one was to the Ulster Museum) but it was the fun and banter I had with my friends I remember the most.

If you could change something about your time at Sullivan what would you change and why?

I would change nothing, just as I said before. OK then, maybe the food in the canteen! But in a serious sense, wanting to change something from the past doesn't work for me - change something you don't enjoy now rather than regretting it later.

Pupils' luck

Reflecting on the opportunity to ask McIlroy these questions, School Reporter Lucy said: "It's strange to think such a famous person came from our school. It is even more strange to think he may have had some of our teachers and perhaps sat at one of the desks we use.

"Perhaps when he returns from golf he could come back to Sullivan and become our PE teacher? One can only hope!"

Image caption Patrick, Lucy and Thomas say it was a privilege to have Rory answer their questions

Thomas added: "Our class was so excited when we found out that we had the opportunity to ask a four-time major champion and one of the best golfers in the world some questions.

"Rory means so much to this school and so much to Northern Ireland and it is amazing to think that a young boy from Sullivan who loved to play golf is now one of the biggest sports stars in the world."

School Reporter Patrick said he and his classmates were very lucky that Rory took the time to answer their questions.

"It is hard to believe that the famous golfer, Rory McIlroy, was a pupil at Sullivan Upper School.

"Of course, nobody knew in year eight this wee boy was going to become one of the best golfers in the world earning millions each year.

"Through the interview, Rory had a good sense of humour, joking about changing the food in the canteen and how the summer holidays were the best part of school."

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