After placing fifth at the Memorial, Rory McIlroy flew to Haiti as a UNICEF ambassador to tour the relief efforts established after the devastating earthquake last January. He kicked off the trip with a visit to a school, and then spent time at a nutrition and maternal center, where he learned about the outbreak of cholera and prevention and malnutrition of babies.
“It was pretty heavy,” McIlroy told this site on Tuesday evening.
Naturally, I had a gazallion-and-two questions. Asked if it was worse than he had expected, he said, “Some parts looked like a war zone, but the spirit there is great.
“People there just seem determined and the new president is so popular. And the kids in schools seem oblivious to what’s going on around them, it’s so cool to see that stuff.”
Unlike some professional athletes and celebrities associated with charities for self-serving reasons, McIlroy’s intentions are motivated by his genuine desire to help and he spoke (or texted) rather knowledgeably about UNICEF’s work.
“60% of the population is under 18 years old so UNICEF is really focusing on education of these kids. Still 85% of schools are private so trying to build public schools will help immensely. Only 1 in 2 kids go to school at the minute,” said McIlroy. “The whole experience was mind-blowing — just stuff we take for granted every day like street lights and water and roads these people don’t have anymore.”
Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
“Big time,” he replied.
“My trip to Haiti is coming to an end. Was incredible to see the work UNICEF does here and more importantly the great spirit the Haitian people have. With the new president and the positivity of the people a little help could go a long way in this country!”
The accommodations weren’t exactly four-star hotels, either. He stayed “just somewhere to put our heads down for a few hours, they were long days.”
On Monday night while McIlroy was dining in a restaurant, along with his manager Stuart Cage, a massive tropical storm hit Haiti and killed 20 people, according to Rory. They were staying outside of town, a little ways from the earthquake-affected areas, and safely made it back to where they were staying.
Rory doesn’t have any upcoming trips scheduled with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) at the moment, but he plans to go on more field visits. “UNICEF works in so many countries, but I’ll definitely go back to Haiti in the future,” he said.
Pretty cool of him to get involved in a hands-on way.
“Just doing my bit,” Rory replied.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s only 22.
After his eye-opening experience, McIlroy flew to DC area to prepare for next week’s US Open at Congressional. He played practice rounds on Wednesday and Thursday and from the sounds of it, the setup suits his game. He tweeted: “Saw Congressional GC for the first time today…Great golf course, gotta draw the ball a lot so hopefully that will suit me! #usopen”
“I’d love to win the US open,” McIlroy said on Tuesday before he’d seen the course. “(It’s the) toughest examination we face all year.”