Former ETSU signee Rory McIlroy wins 111th U.S. Open with ETSU alum Fitzgerald as caddie

Monday, June 20, 2011

BETHESDA, Md. (June 19, 2011) â€"
Former ETSU golf signee Rory McIlroy put together one of the most impressive performances in U.S. Open history as he set numerous records in earning the wire-to-wire victory at the 111th U.S. Open Championship at Congressional, just outside of the nation’s capital on Sunday evening.
McIlroy, who signed to play golf at ETSU in 2004, finished the tournament with a record score of 16-under par on the par-71 layout, defeating the next closest finisher by eight shots. It was McIlroy’s first major victory of his young career and just his second victory in America (Won the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte).
The 22-year-old McIlroy from Northern Ireland became the first player in the 111-year history of the U.S. Open to reach 13-under par, while his 36-hole score of 131, his 54-hole total of 199, and his 72-hole total of 268 were all U.S. Open records.
The ETSU interest started when two Buccaneer players, Cian McNamara and Gareth Shaw, suggested to ETSU head coach Fred Warren to take a look at McIlroy.
After Warren traveled to Ireland to watch McIlroy play, he knew that McIlroy was going to be something special and knew he wanted him to play for the Bucs. After an enjoyable visit to Johnson City and ETSU, McIlroy signed a letter-of-intent to attend ETSU.
It was the spring before enrolling at ETSU that McIlroy really became noticed on the golf course after a number of impressive amateur tournament finishes. That is when McIlroy began to rethink his decision to play collegiate golf. Instead of attending ETSU, McIlroy notified Coach Warren that he was not going to be coming to school, but instead remaining in Ireland to compete in some of the top amateur events in the world.
Following a very successful amateur career, McIlroy decided to turn pro in late 2007.  After earning his first professional victory at the Dubai Desert Classic in 2009, McIlroy earned his first victory in the United States in 2010 at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. Earlier this season, he had a 54-hole lead at The Masters, but struggled on the final day as Charl Schwartzel eventually won the title. However, McIlroy regrouped to put together one of the most impressive performances ever witnessed in major championship history this weekend at the U.S. Open, becoming an instant hit with fans all across the world.
McIlroy was not the only ETSU connection that had a part in the victory; however, as his caddie J.P. Fitzgerald graduated from ETSU, while also playing golf for the Bucs. Fitzgerald was an all-conference performer for the Bucs during the 1989 season.
After finishing up at ETSU, Fitzgerald was recruited to caddie for his friend and fellow Irishman Paul McGinley. In fact, he helped McGinley read the match clinching putt in the European’s victory over the United States in the 2002 Ryder Cup.
Fitzgerald has since caddied for multiple tour winner and fellow Irishman Darren Clarke as well as one of the top golfers in the world at the time, Ernie Els. 
The 22-year-old McIlroy from Northern Ireland became the first player in the 111-year history of the U.S. Open to reach 13-under par, while his 36-hole score of 131, his 54-hole total of 199, and his 72-hole total of 268 were all U.S. Open records.
British Amateur News
To cap off the impressive week for golfers with ETSU connections, former Buccaneer Michael Stewart finished as the runner-up at the famed and prestigious British Amateur Championship. Stewart was narrowly defeated by Bryden Macpherson in the 36-hole final on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, McPherson earns an exemption into next month’s British Open Championship and next season’s Masters Championship.
Stewart played for the Bucs during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons before leaving school to return home and concentrate solely on golf. Stewart won the individual title at the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championship, while also earning A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors that same season. He also earned a spot on the all-conference team in both 2009 and 2010.

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Photos courtesy of the USGA and John Mummert
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