'I'd say they could nearly put a statue of him there'
Proud locals have hailed Shane Lowry's performance at the Open as "unbelievable" as they gear up for a hectic homecoming which they expect to be "seven days long".
While Lowry battled his way to victory through unfavourable conditions in Portrush, floods of locals flocked to Esker Hills Golf Club in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The club, which gave the Clara man his start in golf, was packed with supporters yesterday.
In the heart of the crowd, Shane's grand-uncle and vice-captain Thomas Newman and former vice-captain Pat Clavin were sitting in a prime spot in front of the TV screen.
"He's done great things here for the young lads, he's unbeliev- able. He supports everything. You just have to say it to him that there's something on this week or next week, there's no problem - he'll sponsor it," Mr Newman said.
"He's done us proud. We're over the moon. We'll certainly have a homecoming for him if it suits his schedule, we'll welcome him big time."
Mr Clavin added: "His father Brendan, Dominic Flemming, Austin Hanley, and Ger Egan - they're the backbone of the junior set-up here. There's a very healthy junior set-up.
Ray Molloy, a director of Esker Hills, said: "I can't believe it's happening to us.
"A small little club, 200 members. A young fella that came here, a 12-year-old, hopping around, playing golf with his father. After a year or two he showed promise, and since then he's gone from strength to strength.
"We thought when he won the Irish Open that it couldn't get better for us. Then he went to America and played a few games and we thought it couldn't get better than that. We thought he might win a major one day.
"This will make such a difference to Esker Hill, it will put us on the map. We just cannot believe it.
"The home- coming will be seven days long."
Joe Duffy, a member of Esker Hills, said Shane's performance has been "unbelievable", and that the golfer has made the club "proud".
"We've been following him Thursday, Friday, and after yesterday we said we'd drop everything - we have to be out here," he said.
"This place will be un- believable when he comes back. I was here when he won the Irish Open. This is another step. I'd say they could nearly put a statue of him out there.
"The course here is so unique. It's set up like a links course. From a young lad, he's put in hours of practice here and it's paid off. This is a local club here. From where he's come from and where he is now, he's made us proud."