Crowds hail golf heroes in Co Kerry
Published 28/07/2011 | 17:42
Vantage points were at top premium in Co Kerry as thousands of golf fans lined the fairways to cheer the homegrown heroes who have turned the island into one of the game's more unlikely superpowers.
Children climbed trees while grandparents set up camp in folding chairs round the greens as the Irish Open in Killarney welcomed freshly crowned Open champion Darren Clarke and US Open winner Rory McIlroy.
Fellow major champions Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington made up the quartet of Irish stars playing in front of the packed galleries on the Killeen course at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
In an effort to spread out the crowds, the organisers split up the fab four, but skilfully enough to ensure that everyone could watch a few holes with each of them.
Clarke was in jocular mood from the outset. At the 4th he diplomatically asked an older spectator to stop rustling his packet of biscuits while later in the round he was overheard telling player partner Gregory Bourdy just how many hours of sleep he had amid his post-Open celebrations. The answer - not many.
His sons, Tyrone, 12, and Conor, 10, missed out on being there to see his victory at Royal St George's in Kent but they were in Killarney cheering on their father alongside cousins Callum and Chris.
He would not have much difficulty spotting the boys, as they were sporting the type of brightly coloured golfing trousers he promised to buy them more of with his winnings.
Team Clarke was certainly out in force, with the golfer's father and mother, Godfrey and Hetty, sister, Andrea, and bride-to-be, Alison Campbell, all supporting from the other side of the ropes.
Later, young fan Kevin Dwyer, 12, from the village of Urhan in Co Cork, was lucky enough to catch McIlroy's ball when he tossed it into the crowd at the 7th.
His mother, Kathleen, said the exploits of Ireland's golfers has definitely had a real impact in her house. "We all watch the golf on TV now," she said. "It's on all the time. It's almost replacing the GAA in our house, and that's saying something."