Darren Clarke sheds four stone and nine inches from his waist but still gets 'merry'
Darren Clarke has already turned a 41 into a 32 around his waist and now he plans to effect the same radical transformation on the front nine and back nine. Nobody can accuse the Ulsterman of not trying.
Fans will see the 2011 Open champion pounding down the fairways here this week and take a startled double-check. He figures he has lost more than four stone since last October, but it is the size of his trousers which delights him most.
“From 41 inches to 32 inches,” Clarke said. “Nine inches, just like that, gone.” Except it was not “just like that” and anyone out there who believes that Clarke, 44, has opted for the easy life and drifted off to seed since realising his lifelong dream at Sandwich three years ago, should read on.
If they are still not convinced, they should go to the public gym Clarke will use at Hoylake and witness his intense work-out. It genuinely is tiring to watch.
Since seeing himself on TV during the Dunhill Links at St Andrews last year and thinking “Christ, I’m fat”, Clarke has gone to work. He really did not appreciate feeling like the sofa at the Home of Golf. A chance meeting the next week with Jamie Myerscough, who runs the Educogym in Dublin, was all the inspiration he needed. He was sold a regime which a) would still let him drink and b) not require him to spend hour after hour in the gym.
“The first thing I had to do was cut sugar out of my diet,” Clarke said, the sweat dripping off him as he warmed down after a gym session. “There’s sugar in everything, bread, fruit, carrots everything. So I eat meat and green veg; no carbs, just high protein. I take a load of pills as well, amino acids, fish oils and protein shakes and a mass builder which includes some carbs. You can’t do completely without carbs but it’s minimal.
“At the start it was hard and despite my diet seeming entirely normal to me now, I still get sugar cravings which I have to satisfy every blue moon. When I met Jamie it was the gym stuff I was more worried about. I’d done a lot of that before and to be honest just found it terribly boring going in there for hour after hour. But with this, it’s 25 minutes maximum. No cardio, just lifting heavy weights. Explosive. In and out. It suits me.
“Although, I’m an idiot in the sense that I always have to push it with the weights, always have to try to go heavier and heavier. But that’s me. I’ll never change in some regards.”
Myerscough will email over different exercises which Clarke follows on his smartphone. He does so studiously, promising to locate a gym in Hoylake. “We’re in a private house, which won't have all the equipment, but I’ll find one – I don’t care where it is,” he said. “But don’t worry, I haven’t turned into a total angel. I’m not that mad about it. But like I said, I saw myself at Dunhill and it was not pleasant.”
Clarke was in a pub in St Andrews when he caught that life-changing image and, as he is known as the genial Guinness-gobbler, the question has to be asked. “Don’t be effing stupid, it’s me!” he said, with a huge grin.
“I still go out with my mates and enjoy myself and always will. Yet whereas before I’d have had a dozen pints of Guinness, now I’ll have one or two pints... and 10 gin and tonics. So the outcome is still very merry, with much less calories.”
The effects are not merely metrical. “I’m twice as strong as I was before and feel much better, not just physically, but mentally,” he said. “The only source of frustration is that the golf ball hasn’t yet realised all the work I’ve been doing. My timing has been off, obviously because I’ve lost all that weight and what have you and my swing has to compensate.
“Recently I’ve actually been hitting the ball well and scoring terribly. But I’ve always been driven, way too much so and I can assure you that I wouldn’t be doing all this if I didn’t think I couldn’t still play, didn’t think I could still play at the top level. I’m just going to carry on grafting, stand on that range and carry on ripping it, and wait until it turns around on the course.”
Perhaps it will this week. There were signs of the renowned links masters at the Scottish Open last week. He is never more comfortable than with sand under his spikes and the sea winds ruffling his hair.
“This is the truest form of the game and it’s what I grew up playing,” he said. “Because I’ve been out on Tour so long, you play the same sort of courses week in, week out. Hit it through the air, hit it to a certain number.
“On links you’re trying to land it 60, 70 yards short. You’ve got to use your imagination. And that’s what appeals. But it isn’t all love. It never is with a professional golfer, whatever they say.
“It’s a love-hate relationship between the golfer and golf and at the moment for me there’s probably a little bit too much hate. But whatever happens out there, at least I’m not fat any more.”