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The Open: Ulster fans roared Darren Clarke home

By Steven Beacom

Darren Clarke's Open Championship success was a home win in more ways than one, according to the Ulster fans who followed him every step of the way at Royal St George's on Sunday.

The 42-year-old was lifted by the huge outpouring of support from the galleries during his final round, with many of the encouraging voices having a distinct Northern Ireland tone.

Mum Hetty, dad Godfrey and fiancee Alison Campbell were greenside when Darren tapped in his final putt on the 18th hole to start the celebrations, while thousands of others cheered from the stands and fairways when the popular victory was sealed.

One was Stephen Campbell, a native of Newtownabbey, who now lives and works in London. He said: “It was a fantastic day. A lot of people initially started watching Rory McIlroy, but then went to see the last group which contained Darren. The atmosphere was electric. I think it really drove Darren on.

“I heard lots of Ulster accents on the course.

“He certainly had plenty of support from Northern Ireland.

“In many ways it was as if he was back home.

“All the English fans were behind him too, so it added up to be something really special.”

Geoff, from Portstewart, claimed the wind and rain played into Clarke's hands.

He said: “The way the weather was it reminded me of any breezy, rainy July day in Portstewart, so Darren would have been well used to the conditions playing Royal Portrush on such a regular basis. I bet he felt right at home when it was blowing really hard and the rain came pelting down.”

While Sunday afternoon ended in triumph for the big Dungannon man, George Davidson from Belfast admitted there were a few nervy moments along the way.

“The tension was unbearable at times, especially when news came through of Phil Mickelson moving joint top of the leaderboard with Darren,” he said.

“To be honest I wasn't sure if Darren would hold on, but he hit a brilliant eagle on the seventh and from there he never looked back.

“Dustin Johnson looked like mounting a late challenge but it came to nothing and Darren was able to enjoy the last couple of holes.

“You could tell he really appreciated all our support.

“It was an honour to be on the course and see the latest big victory for Northern Ireland after Graeme McDowell's and Rory McIlroy's wins in the US Open. Hopefully their success can inspire our other sports stars.”

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