Monday 23 October 2017

Out of the rough as local hero Clarke parties on

US Open champions Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell with Open
Championship winner Darren Clarke in Portrush last night
US Open champions Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell with Open Championship winner Darren Clarke in Portrush last night

Kevin Keane

DARREN Clarke enjoyed a third day of celebrations yesterday, flanked by the three men who taught him how to play golf.

Following the heroics of his Open Championship victory on Sunday and the highs of his homecoming to Northern Ireland the following afternoon, Clarke (42) visited his local golf club with friends and family to show off the famous Claret Jug trophy.

"I was falling asleep with a mixture of tiredness, excitement and beverages," Clarke said of the night before, when after partying through the night, he arrived feeling a little rough at his local bar in Portballintrae.

"But fortunately Alison (Clarke's fiancee) managed to drag me out of there before I fell asleep and after 10 hours last night I'm feeling much better."

Clarke's initial 36-hour party might have finally ended on Monday evening, but the celebrations continued yesterday as hundreds of fans turned up at the Royal Portrush Golf Club in Co Antrim to catch a glimpse of the latest star from the North to win one of golf's "majors".


And last night he arrived with US Open champion Rory McIlroy at a private party in Portrush .

Earlier in the day, cheers broke out as the newly dubbed "People's Champion" passed the Claret Jug between his two sons, Tyrone and Connor, on the balcony of the Royal Portrush clubhouse.

The boys -- the sons of Clarke's late wife, Heather -- "practically live in the club", according to club captain Philip Tweedie.

And while their father was the undoubted centre of attention, he was eager to share the limelight with others, chief among them a trio of men who introduced him to the game more than 30 years ago.

Clarke's father, Godfrey, recalled his son's early years at Dungannon Golf Club, where many of the champion's golfing honours and photographs now proudly adorn the walls.

"I used to be the head greenkeeper and he would come out with me at 8am and we'd get a phone call then possibly at half nine at night saying, 'I'm ready to go home now'.

"At least we knew where he was and he was getting up to no harm," he added.

Godfrey's friend Raymond McGerr has known Darren since he was five. "Godfrey and Hattie (Clarke's mother) gave up an awful lot in the early years for Darren and it's great to see him repay it the way he has done. He hasn't forgotten the people who followed him in the early days," Mr McGerr told the Irish Independent.

The third member of the trio of Clarke's early golfing tutors, Boyd Hunter, played with Darren until he was old enough to compete on the amateur circuit.

"He was always talented but a lot of kids are talented. To do what Darren has done takes more than talent, it's the whole package really," Mr Hunter said.

After a number of years in London, Clarke moved back with his sons Tyrone and Connor to the seaside town of Portrush last year and built a house overlooking the course he described yesterday as "the best in the world".

"If I was ever to get above my station here I have a few good friends who would give me a clip around the ear and tell me to get back in line," Clarke admitted with a smile yesterday.

Irish Independent

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