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Just champion: the North salutes another local golfing hero

A SMILING Darren Clarke touched down on home soil yesterday as the North saluted its latest Major champion.

The visibly weary Dungannon-born golfer proudly clutched the game's greatest prize alongside his beaming fiancee, Alison Campbell.

The pair flew into Belfast on a private jet less than 24 hours after Clarke fulfilled a lifetime's ambition by winning the British Open.

Moments later the pair were whisked away in a car to Portrush where Darren's two sons, Tyrone and Conor, were waiting to welcome him home.

Producing the famous Claret Jug he said: "There, that is for you."

The 42-year-old clinched his maiden Major title with a three-shot victory at Royal St George's on Sunday -- becoming the third Northern golfer in just 13 months to win one of the sport's premier events. Clarke lives in Portrush where he is a member of the Royal Portrush club, and last night a huge celebration was being planned to welcome their hero home.

Earlier, the First and Deputy First Ministers led the tributes to our newest sports superstar.

Peter Robinson said there was "no more deserving or popular a winner than Darren".

Martin McGuinness said it was simply staggering that the region had produced yet another Major winner.

Just 24 hours earlier Clarke had held his nerve to finish three shots ahead of Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Irish Independent