US Open victory that elevated Graeme McDowell to golf’s elite
Golfing star Graeme McDowell, who has enjoyed a phenomenal rise from playing pitch and putt in his home town in Co Antrim to US Open glory at Pebble Beach, now has the whole world at his feet.
As well as becoming the first European to win the title in 40 years and only the second Northern Ireland player to win a Major since 1947, McDowell collected a cheque for $1.35m (£911,187) which he can add to his already bulging bank account.
The victory has also elevated him into elite status, lifting him from 37th to 13th in the world rankings and a certainty for Ryder Cup selection. His confidence going into next month’s Open Championship at St Andrews will also be at an all-time high.
According to the Portrush star’s brother Gary, he first picked up a golf club aged about nine years old. Both brothers played out of Rathmore Club in Portrush where Graeme, who is still on the books, was coached by his uncle Uel.
At grammar school Graeme captained the Coleraine Academical Institution golf team before moving on to Queen’s University in Belfast to study engineering. But it was his move to the University of Alabama in 1998, where he spent four years perfecting his golf technique, that marked the start of his hugely successful golfing career.
“He came out of university with a better stroke average than Tiger Woods,” said BBC sports presenter Stephen Watson, who has known McDowell for years.
In 2002, after winning the Haskins Award for the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the United States, McDowell turned professional and went on to win the Scandinavian Masters in his fourth start on the European Tour.
Three years later he had secured his place in the world’s top 50.
“He has been knocking on the door of something big for some time now. Winning a major golf championship is the pinnacle of his career. Life will never be the same for Graeme,” added Watson.
Off the golf course McDowell can expect great things.
Lucrative sponsorship deals and product endorsements worth millions of pounds are likely to flood in over the coming weeks.
Tiger Woods earned hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorship before his sex shame scandal.
Magazines and television channels right across the globe will be hoping to entice Graeme to give interviews and will no doubt be offering tempting fees.
He was due to make his debut as a late-night chat show guest in America last night with an appearance on the top-rated Jay Leno show.
For the people of Northern Ireland, McDowell’s win has evoked much national pride. First Minister Peter Robinson described it as an “outstanding achievement”.