There is heartfelt devotion for Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke in these parts but the pride of Portrush is without question Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell is the man in Portrush

Yes, the Portrush locals are desperate to see Rory McIlroy play well in the second round of The Open today.

McIlroy is from Holywood, 60 miles away near Belfast, while Darren Clarke is from Dungannon, 50 miles due south, although he has a home in Portrush and like McIlroy, he is nearly a local.

But for the townsfolk—and for the caddies at Royal Portrush GC, each and every one—their man is Graeme McDowell, the U.S. Open champ at Pebble Beach in 2010 and one of their own.

“Graeme is the local man,” says Chris Gaile Jnr, who splits his time between caddying at Royal Portrush and working on the practice ground.

“He is definitely the favourite around here. He was born and raised in Portrush. His mother and father still live here and his brother works on the course along with us guys. G-Mac is the man.”

“Graeme McDowell is a gentleman,” adds John McIntyre, another caddie who also works as one of the club’s starters. “He’s the local lad who won the U.S. Open. This place was buzzing when that happened, and at the Rathmore Club too, where he grew up playing.”

Rathmore Golf Club is the club for the Portrush residents, which is given access to the Valley Course and Dunluce Links owned by Royal Portrush.

The Rathmore clubhouse is adorned with pictures of McDowell through the years, usually surrounded by different items of gleaming silverware.

McDowell’s father Kenny is a long-standing member at Rathmore and McDowell gave the club a replica of his U.S. Open trophy.

When McDowell won his first title on the European Tour, the 2002 Scandinavian Masters, he promptly called the Rathmore Club to cover the bar tab.

Says Chris: “G-Mac is down to earth like, and that is one of the reasons people love him so much here.”

Agrees fellow caddie Eamon Hughes: “There’s Rory and Darren Clarke and we want them to play well but more importantly we would like to see Graeme McDowell play his best.”