It was billed as a celebration of Ireland’s golfing heroes and the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland lived up to that expectation, with a record crowd of 85, 179 flocking to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
Although Open Champion Darren Clarke and three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington failed to make it through to the weekend, and the last two US Open Champions Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy could only finish tied 25th and tied 34th respectively, the Irish golfing fans turned out en masse to support their sporting stars and national Open.
The overall attendance figure, boosted by Sunday’s gate of 23,958, was an increase of 3,441 on last year’s total of 81, 738.
McDowell said: “The crowds were fantastic and they really shouted us on at every hole and the support was just amazing, everything that we expected it to be.
“It was disappointing not to have Darren and Padraig in for the weekend and I know Rory was the same as me, we couldn't quite get firing around this golf course. But we had a lot of fun and I enjoyed the week. It was a good buzz out there and I really enjoyed my four rounds.”
McIlroy added: “The crowds have been exceptional and the weather has stayed pretty nice for us. It's been a good week. It would just have been nicer to shoot a couple of better scores.”
The magnificent support of the crowd was not exclusive to the Irish players, of course, with winner Simon Dyson also paying tribute to the rousing reception he received.
“It was like playing in The Open again,” said the Englishman. “They were unbelievable to play in front of, they really were. They are so gracious. They clap every shot. They clap you on the tee and into the green and every birdie you make. It was just a pleasure to play in front of them.”