Just days after he stunned the sporting world by winning the US Open Graeme McDowell was last night greeted to a rapturous welcome by his adoring local fans at the Rathmore Golf Club where he honed his skills as a teenager.
Holding the famous cup aloft for all to see the Portrush star was clearly moved by the welcome he received and immediately apologised for being a bit late.
G-Mac, as he is better known, who admitted that he had been “running on adrenaline since Sunday”, said the days since his win have consisted mostly of constant media interviews, including one with Jay Leno the US chat show host.
He said: “I am here for the weekend and intend to see some drinking action.”
Asked if he ever imagined he would win a Major tournament, Graeme said: “I admit, when I used to stand out there on the greens of Rathmore, I dared to dream about a day like Sunday.
“It was such a special day and having my dad there was fantastic. My upbringing here stood me in good stead at Pebble Beach. It is a course very similar to here with rough ground and a sea breeze, although it is a bit rougher here.
“While I dreamed about it I didn’t really think it would happen and although there were times on Sunday I had the acceptance speech all ready in my head, I kept putting it out again and tried to focus.”
Graeme has been inundated by congratulatory cards, emails, calls and texts, and while he said he was delighted to get each and every one of them, the one he got from the boy up the road in Coleraine, Jimmy Nesbitt, thrilled him the most.
He said: “I would have to dig it out to tell you exactly what he said but he was pretty puffed up.
“He said he stayed up and watched the game and how great he thought it was and how great it was for this part of the country.
“He is a cool dude and it was one of the greatest messages I ever got.”
And golf star Rory McIlroy also popped into the club to say hello to his Ryder Cup partner.
The two friends hugged each other and Rory said Graeme’s win was “well deserved on an incredibly tough course”.
He added: “G-Mac kept his head and that is what makes him special.
“Hopefully he won’t take my course record here at Rathmore from me.”
The Portrush star also revealed how he was hit by panic after the combination for his trophy case lock was lost earlier yesterday.
The Northern Ireland golfer's helpers tried six times to open the carrier after the combination went missing as he arrived back in the UK.
Bolt cutters were eventually used to cut the lock in London after a greenkeeper from Leatherhead Golf Club arrived.
‘This course is where his steely |determination first showed itself’
After his triumph at the US Open, Graeme McDowell was last night back where his remarkable story began.
Adorning the wall of the clubhouse of Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush is the brilliant blue Ryder Cup shirt which McDowell wore in 2008 when he helped Europe defeat America.
The message scrawled in a distinctive spidery black handwriting on the jersey tells you all you need to know about the local sporting hero.
It reads: “Rathmore, always my home, thanks for all the support.”
Back at the clubhouse last night McDowell was accompanied by his father Kenny and greeted by other members of his family including brothers Gary and George.
He insisted he went there first, directly from the airport, to savour the congratulations of his friends — many of whom watched him develop his special talent.
“He was like a boy amongst men when we threw him into club representative teams,” former club captain Robbie Doherty recalled fondly.
“This is where his steely determination showed itself.”
Mr Doherty said what set McDowell apart was his strength under pressure.
“The important thing very evident then was his desire to win. He had gritty performances, he kept digging in, he had drive and determination that flowed right through and that was epitomised in how he concluded his round on Sunday,” he added.
Club Captain Colin Walker said everyone at Rathmore are still trying to come to terms with the media attention.
“I rang Graeme yesterday and told him he had a lot to answer for.”
Among those waiting to pat Graeme on the back was Richard Begg, the golf coach at his old school Coleraine Academical Institute.
Despite the years Graeme has been living in America he still keeps in regular contact with his Alma Mater whenever he can.
Richard said Graeme’s win was the pinnacle of an amazing week for the school.
“It just doesn’t get any better than this, I think, Graeme has really put the school on the map as far as sport goes and what makes his victory even better is that he is such a nice guy.
“He never forgot the school and visits us whenever he can.
“Three years ago he put up a cup for competition which is played for throughout Northern Ireland and, on Tuesday, our First and Second Years beat off teams from Belfast for it.”
Among those to greet McDowell was fellow Northern Ireland golfing superstar Rory McIlroy.