SPORT: Sports Personality of the Year campaign gathers pace

SUPPORT is growing for golf star Graeme McDowell to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2010.

The 31-year-old has been installed as the early favourite to win the coveted title following his Ryder Cup heroics last week and his US Open victory in June.

A petition on Facebook backing the Portrush native to be given the award is gathering momentum.

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The online campaign comes ahead of the annual televised awards ceremony, scheduled to take place this year in Birmingham on December 19.

Despite an official shortlist not yet being announced, G-Mac is expected to feature in the final reckoning given his recent stunning successes.

Along with compatriot Rory McIlroy, McDowell played a pivotal role in ensuring Europe regained the Ryder Cup from the United States, following a nail-biting conclusion at Celtic Manor in Wales.

McDowell held his nerve under intense pressure, effortlessly guiding his team over the finish line in the final singles match.

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McIlroy, who was paired with McDowell in earlier rounds, also played a starring role in his first Ryder Cup appearance at the tender age of 21.

Only hours after excelling on the Welsh fairways and celebrating into the night with their European teammates, both players travelled to Scotland to participate at a pro-am tournament at St Andrews where McDowell was partnered by his father Kenny.

Meanwhile members at McDowell's home golf club, Rathmore in Portrush, are keen to give their hero another triumphant homecoming.

"We like a party down here so I am sure there will be plans afoot if we can organise something," bar manager Jim Blee said.

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"It will all depend on Graeme and what he wants to do. I am sure he is worn out as well."

And fellow Portrush man Alan Simpson has thrown his weight behind a campaign to have a street named after G-Mac in the seaside town.

The BBC Radio Ulster presenter was instrumental in signs being erected in the borough following McDowell's US Open success.

But following Graeme's Ryder Cup success Alan thinks it would be fitting to for him to have a street named in his honour in his home town.

"Graeme McDowell Drive has a nice ring to it," said Alan.

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"Once again he has Portrush on the map with his tremendous performance in the Ryder Cup and I think it would be fitting for us to recognise it."

Meanwhile, it has emerged that an official reception could be held to recognise Northern Ireland's significant contribution to Europe's Ryder Cup success.

A spokesman for the department of culture, arts and leisure said: "Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, along with vice-captain, Darren Clarke, have been ambassadors not only for their sport but for Northern Ireland as well.

"The Minister (Nelson McCausland) is eager to officially mark what has been a landmark year for Northern Ireland's golfers."