Castaway Clarke

Life's a beach for Darren as visa snag leaves him stranded

WEEK OFF: Darren Clarke will enjoy a low-key celebration of his Champions Tour win

Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke will celebrate his first PGA Tour Champions win in a beach bar in the Bahamas as visa problems force him to miss this week's season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

But if you think the Dungannon man (52) is going to repeat his 2011 Open celebrations by going on a week-long bender after his win in the TimberTech Championship in Boca Raton, think again.

He's promised to go easy this time as he plans to begin a new fitness regime next week so he can compete with the likes of Pádraig Harrington next year.

"Well, the last victory I had - for The Open - I was drunk for a week, so this time I won't be," insisted Clarke (above), who made $616,932 (€530,000) from 12 starts this year. "All you've got to do is be here two hours before tee-time and see how many guys are working so hard on the range. We all grind. The standard is so high now, you just can't afford not to."

Unable to renew his visa during the Covid-19 pandemic, he was obliged to head back to the Bahamas rather than play in Phoenix this week.

"All embassies are shut, and as a non-US citizen, you can only go to the embassy outside of the US to get it renewed," he explained. "Consequently, I've got to leave the country, which any other year I would be absolutely gutted to miss Phoenix. As it is, I'm gutted to miss Phoenix, but it's a rollover season for us so it won't quite have the same impact."

He added: "I'm going to have to sit at the beach bar called Flippers down in Abaco Club, drink some sea breezes, watch the boys on the big screen up there.

"I'll have a week off. Then I've got another big programme. My weight fluctuates up and down, up and down, and when I get to a certain point, enough's enough. So I'll have a week's bit of fun, and then I'm back in the gym full-time. I just need to get myself back into decent shape again. Try to, at least."

As Clarke heads for the beach, Harrington joins Masters-bound Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell in the Houston Open as Jonny Caldwell and Cormac Sharvin play the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown and Michael Hoey, Gavin Moynihan and Niall Kearney play the Andalucía Challenge de España, the first of back-to-back events at Novo Sancti Petri in Cádiz.

Also, Leona Maguire must wait to see if she gets in next month's US Women's Open via the Rolex Rankings after she was leapfrogged by Lindsay Weaver for the last of 10 spots via the LPGA Money List after the LPGA Drive On Championship, missing out by just $2,228.

Meanwhile, Golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland will receive €2.7 million from the Sport Ireland Resilience Fund announced yesterday by Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Media and Sport, Catherine Martin.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced clubs to shut for prolonged periods, resulting in many facilities facing serious financial difficulties.

As a result, Sport Ireland has granted €2.7m in funding to Golf Ireland under Club Resilience Fund as well as a Restart and Renewal Fund of €30,000 for the Golf Ireland Education Portal, aimed at developing online courses for clubs, staff, volunteers and PGA professionals.