DUBLIN, Ohio -- The following statement is about as close to a declarative fact as somebody can write given that it can never be conclusively proven.
Next week, rising Northern Ireland superstar Rory McIlroy will become the first golfer ever to go from poverty-stricken Haiti to the ultra-exclusive grounds of private Pine Valley Golf Club in the span of one week. The seemingly incomprehensible, polarized paradox isn't lost on the 22-year-old, either.
"It's going to be an eye-opening experience," he said. "I don't really know what to expect."
Just as well. It would be hard to prepare him for the culture shock that surely awaits.
The Ulsterman, who is tied for the lead after an opening 66 on Thursday at the Memorial Tournament, has signed as a celebrity spokesperson with UNICEF and will go on a two-day trip to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, on Monday and Tuesday.
He and manager Stuart Cage will make the trip and will be escorted around the island nation by UNICEF officials, and neither had a lot of additional details about what's on the agenda. He signed on with the charity earlier this year, he said.
"You want to associate yourself with a charity that you feel close to, and UNICEF works mainly as a children's charity, and I feel like I'm the sort of age that I can relate to the younger people," he said. "I just don't want to really put my name to it, I wanted to do something, and they were very keen for me to go and see somewhere where they're hands on and they're working, and it sort of just fit in quite well that I could go to Haiti for a couple of days and see what they do."
Before they visit the disease-wracked nation, Cage said they will be taking malaria pills starting this weekend as a precaution and took a test dose last week to madke sure they didn't have any unintended sife effects. According to estimates, 30,000 residents each year contract malaria. According to another report, 90 percent of children in Haiti are afflicted with water-born diseases or intestinal parasites.
The published data on HIV, the number of orphans, life expectancy and thelike are positively staggering.
"It should be quite an experience," Cage said.
No kidding. From posh Muirfield Village this week, McIlroy will head straight to Haiti, then spend a couple of days practicing at U.S. Open site Congressional Country Club and then head to Pine Valley the week preceding the Open.
No quality-of-life spectrum could possibly be broader.