Lombard cop gains international fame from Ryder escort
Ever heard of Pat Rollins?
Well, they have in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Britain and throughout the world of professional golf after Rollins famously rushed European golfer Rory McIlroy to the final round of the Ryder Cup on Sunday at Medinah Country Club.
Stories about Rory's ride to the Ryder via Rollins' unmarked squad car show up in Spanish and Vietnamese and in publications from Canada and Pakistan to McIlroy's native Ireland.
Rollins' driving is credited with helping McIlroy arrive at the course on time after the golfer reportedly believed his match was to tee off an hour later than its actual 11:25 a.m. start time. The ride from Rollins helped the 23-year-old golfer avoid disqualification or forfeiting the first hole against U.S. team member Keegan Bradley, and the Europeans went on to win the Ryder Cup in stunning comeback fashion.
So who is he, this Pat Rollins?
Rollins is deputy chief of the Lombard Police Department, and he's been swamped this week with about 70 phone calls from local, national and international media outlets all wanting to hear the story of his high-stakes Sunday drive.
"A lot of newspapers around where Rory grew up have called, as well as media from the Golf Channel to CNN International," Rollins said Wednesday, as the flurry of interest continued.
Rollins said he was on duty Sunday, splitting his time between the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center hotel, where several dignitaries and golfers like McIlroy were staying, and the area around the course on Medinah Road between Lake Street and Irving Park Road.
He returned to the hotel after assisting with a motorcade bringing former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush to Medinah. There, Lombard Lt. Ron Newton told Rollins no one had seen McIlroy leave yet, although it was just more than a half-hour before his tee time.
"We knew if he was still there, it was going to be a time crunch," Rollins said.
Rollins was planning on heading back to the course for a meeting of Ryder Cup unified command personnel, so once the golfer made it to the hotel lobby, Rollins hit the gas and got McIlroy to the tournament on time. He said light traffic on I-355 helped the 12-mile drive move quickly, and he radioed ahead to the traffic command post, asking for assistance bringing in a VIP.
"At a couple junctions, I had to use my siren," Rollins said, adding it is common for police to "use lights and at times, sirens, to escort VIPs, dignitaries or the president."
Since Rollins acted while on duty Sunday, there was no cost to the village of Lombard other than for gas. Village Manager David Hulseberg said he supports Rollins' decision to rush McIlroy to the course because of Lombard's responsibility to help the international event run smoothly.
He also said he hopes the village actually can make some money from Rollins' now well-known ride.
The navy blue unmarked squad car Rollins used to drive McIlroy to Medinah in 20 minutes or less actually is scheduled to be replaced, Hulseberg and Rollins said, and it now will be sold in a very public way. The village plans to list the car for sale on an online auction site such as ebay.com, pending village board approval at the Oct. 18 meeting.
"Since it's drawing so much attention," Hulseberg said, "we figure we have nothing to lose by putting it out there for any European or anyone who would like to buy the car and do whatever they would like with it."