Rory McIlroy ensured the 2011 season would be an even more memorable one for him when he was awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours List.
The 22 year old Northern Irishman has been recognised six months after producing one of the sport's great performances to win the US Open Championship at Congressional Country Club, claiming the second Major Championship of the season by an astounding eight shots in a tournament record score of 16 under par 268.
McIlroy's triumph win was all the more remarkable coming, as it did, just two months after a devastating final round in the Masters Tournament in April. There he started the day with a four stroke lead but shot 80 to finish in tied 15th.
Few doubted his talent but many feared he might never recover from such a damning blow to his confidence.
But, to his credit, McIlroy he put on a brave face, saying he would have many more opportunities to win Majors and he proved true to his word with his emphatic victory in Maryland. It was some statement of intent and a powerful endorsement of his ability.
“I am delighted to be named in the Queen's New Year Honours list,” he said. “"It is quite humbling to be included in such a list of worthy recipients. Many people on the Honours list have made huge personal sacrifices and contributed significantly to society during their lives. I feel very fortunate to be in their company.
The US Open triumph was the highlight of a superb 2011 European Tour season for McIlroy who pushed Luke Donald all the way in a thrilling Race to Dubai.
The Northern Irishman was in truly stunning form at the end of the year, finishing in the top four in four consecutive tournaments – the Omega European Masters, the KLM Open, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the WGC-HSBC Championship before claiming victory in season’s penultimate event, the UBS Hong Kong Open.
That saw all eyes turn to the final event of the season – the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World – where his 11th place finish was just not enough to stop Donald finishing Number One. It did, however, re-emphasise McIlroy’s position as one of the most exciting talents the game has ever known.
Indeed, McIlroy has caught the eye ever since a glittering amateur career saw him reach the top of the World Amateur Rankings and become the youngest winner of the prestigious West of Ireland and Irish Closed Championship, in 2005.
He came to international prominence with a superb opening 68 in The 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, the only bogey-free round of the day, and finished third in only his second event as a professional, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. That earned him enough money to assure his place in the top 115 to be the then youngest and quickest Affiliate Member to secure his card – in just two events.
He represented Europe at the 2004 Junior Ryder Cup and elevated to the real thing at The Celtic Manor Resort in October 2010, where he won two points out of four, including a crucial half in the singles against Stewart Cink on the final day.
Earlier that year, he won his first title in the United States – the Quail Hollow Championship on the US PGA Tour, blitzing through the final round in a course record 62 to beat Phil Mickelson by four shots – with his first European Tour title coming in the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic.
Like many top golfers, McIlroy is involved in charitable work and this year he took up a position as UNICEF Ireland Ambassador, with his first visit being to Haiti to oversee the work being done to help the country after its devastating earthquake in January 2010.