A GOLF loving Greenock businessman who travelled to Italy for the Ryder Cup has become an internet sensation after jumping into a lake when Europe secured victory in the competition. 

Former Liberal Democrat election candidate John Burleigh took the plunge at the 16th hole of the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome when Tommy Fleetwood ensured Europe would regain the trophy from the USA.

John's dramatic dash across the green  was captured on video which has now been shared and viewed by millions all over the world. 

The grey-haired senior citizen and businessman has even been dubbed 'Colonel Sanders', of KFC fame, after the clip went viral.

John, 70, said: "The excitement got the better of me and I just thought it would be the ideal time to take the plunge.

"I just got up and ran for it. Everyone in the crowd was encouraging me. 

"Tommy Fleetwood's caddie tried to stop me but just let me go. 

"It was all very good-natured and quite a lot of people jumped into the lake after I did.

"It was more than 30 degrees and everyone was cooking, so it was a great way to cool off."

John's wife Heather arrived at the airport in Rome to join him for a holiday on Sunday evening, and she was stunned at all the attention her husband was getting when he came to pick her up. 

READ MORE: Scottish golfer Robert MacIntyre leads 500 Miles singalong after Ryder Cup win

John added: "She had no idea what had just happened and was shocked that people were recognising me at the airport. 

"When she came off the plane and out of the terminal, there was a crowd of fans heading for a flight home who were crowding round me wanting selfies."

John arrived in Rome on Tuesday without tickets for the competition but somehow managed to secure one for each day's play. 

He got close to a lot of players and managed to get selfies with big names including Scotland's Bob McIntyre, Europe captain Luke Donald and team stars Justin Rose and Fleetwood. 

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The businessman also managed to secure a meeting with Simon Alliss, son of the late commentator Peter Alliss, about an idea he has for a reflective umbrella which could shield golfers from the heat. 

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John said there were thousands of Scottish fans in the crowd. 

He added: "It's a competition that definitely has more joie de vivre than football. 

"I went to the Ryder Cup in Paris and after that, Rome was in my sights. 

"There's so much joy and exuberance and sportsmanship, and it's normally very good fun and really good-natured.

"Everyone was in fine voice. We were all singing the chorus of American Pie at the US team but they didn't like that very much. "

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On the final day of the competition, John elected to stay at the 16th hole to watch the drama unfold. 

He added: "I had a feeling it was going to finish there and I was right. 

"The sun got to me a bit and I had to celebrate. 

"It was incredible watching the gladiatorial combat between Europe and US and there being so much camaraderie in the crowd too."