Northern Ireland

Charitable foundation set up by golfer Rory McIlroy has closed

Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club in 2017. Picture by Justin Kernoghan/ PhotopressBelfast
Rory McIlroy at the Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club in 2017. Picture by Justin Kernoghan/ PhotopressBelfast

THE charitable foundation set up by Co Down golfer Rory McIlroy has closed, it has emerged.

The Rory Foundation, which was established in 2013 to offer support to children's charities, is understood to have ceased operations in December.

However, no major announcement has been made about its closure.

A spokeswoman for the company which handled press enquiries for the foundation, last night confirmed the closure.

"The Rory Foundation is no longer active," she said.

"Rory is adopting a private philanthropic policy".

The move comes amid McIlroy appearing to make a more permanent move to the United States, which has already seen him announce he will not play in this year's Irish Open.

The Holywood-born golfer had to be persuaded to keep up his European Tour membership and will only play in Europe three times this year, including the Open at Royal Portrush.

He set up the Rory Foundation in a bid to help vulnerable and underprivileged children to have better lives.

From 2015 he used the Irish Open as a way of promoting his charity work, with the Rory Foundation becoming the official tournament host.

The foundation worked with The European Tour and its charitable arm, the Tour Players Foundation, to choose charities to benefit from the tournament.

McIlroy injected his own money to increase the prize fund of the Irish Open, which attracted some of the world's biggest golf stars.

A percentage of tournament ticket sales went directly to the Rory Foundation, which was buoyed by a five-year sponsorship deal with Dubai Duty Free.

McIlroy also hosted charity evenings prior to the start of the Irish Open competitions, including an event at Belfast's Waterfront Hall in 2017, which was attended by former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and actor James Nesbitt with the proceeds also going to the Rory Foundation.

Speaking at the time of the foundation launch, McIlroy said: "When I was younger my parents sacrificed everything to allow me to play the game I love.

"Having that support from my family gave me the opportunity to chase my dreams.

"But I know that every child is not so fortunate.

"My aim is that the Rory Foundation will support children's charities big and small, around the world, that try to give kids that helping hand.''

Among the first projects launched by the foundation was 'The 6 Bags Project',' in which he displayed the name of a children's charity. The bag was auctioned through the foundation with the money going to that charity.

Beneficiaries of the foundation included the Cancer Fund for Children, Mencap NI and Sport Changes Life, all based in Northern Ireland.

Phil Alexander, chief executive of the Cancer Fund for Children last night thanked McIlroy for his support.

"We are extremely grateful to the Rory Foundation for the support we have received over the last five years," he said.

"Since Rory McIlroy officially opened Daisy Lodge in 2014 we have welcomed 1,911 families, impacted by a child or parent’s cancer diagnosis, through our doors.

"A therapeutic short break gives families the opportunity to spend much needed time together in a unique, peaceful and nurturing environment."