Posts Tagged ‘Royal St. George’

It has been said that in sports writing, the smaller the ball the better the prose.  I am not sure that this is true considering that I have hardly read anything of interest in the sport of table tennis.  Nonetheless, golf has been a great repository of sports literature due perhaps to the fact that every tournament, every win is marked by something quite different.  The story lines are just so rich and varied that many a tome can never be confused for a duplicate.


During the Tiger years, the story is domination.  For the Mickelson wins it is redemption.  For Rory, the excitement of the future.  For Darren Clarke though, his story just makes one feel good.  Seeing him win and reading a lot of the accounts, one gets that fuzzy feeling inside reserved often only for stories about babies, children, dogs even.  It is that part of the heart where you just feel a deep happiness inside, where a tear forms in your eyes and you are just glad that the universe is in order.  Seldom is this realm reserved for golf where competition is fierce and victory is the ultimate.  Darren Clarke’s win the Open Championship in Royal St. George left me with a cuddly feeling much unlike any other major championship result.


I do remember one time though when I felt like this in another golfing event.  That was back in 2006.  The Ryder Cup was being played in the K Club in Ireland, led by the original wee iceman, Ian Woosnam.  While Europe won in commanding fashion, the story line that really struck me was how Darren Clarke, who had just buried his lovely wife, a victim of breast cancer, no earlier than a month before, steeled himself to contribute three crucial points to the cause.  Many would have forgiven him if he was less than stellar or even mediocre for that matter.  His image, walking by his lonesome in the parade of participants, where each one had a significant other hanging from his arm, brought instant tears into my eyes, especially knowing his circumstances just a few weeks prior.  Even more, when he won his singles match and mightily, but unsuccessfully held back tears, as the crowds of his native land embraced him through their cheers. Europe won that day, but everyone only remembers that event as the one as Darren Clarke’s triumph.


Golf, especially links golf is a fickle game.  Just when Tiger made it appear that golf is predictable, we’ve had 6 straight first time winners.  Just when the youth movement has appeared to take a hold of the game, a 42 year old man takes the Claret Jug.  Clearly, Darren appears to be in the twilight of his career.  Dropping to 111 in the World Golf Ranking, with no win in the last three years save for a win in a minor tournament last May, Darren was not even considered a possibility entering this week.  It seems he’d fit in more in a picture of the local pub than in the winner’s circle.    Sure Northern Ireland produced 2 major champions in the last 5 majors.  Sure those two champions (McDowell and McIlroy) viewed Darren as their idol growing up.  But Darren has not been a major contender in 10 years, has not even played the last three majors and it seems time and opportunities have raced past him, not that it appeared to bother him.  At the ripe old age of 42, Darren was an afterthought.  Surely Darren Clarke’s chances have passed and he could not be considered as a threat to win this one, in spite having a one shot lead entering the last round.  Sure surprises happen but nothing in Darren’s recent career seem to indicate that he can pull this out.  But in the end Darren himself  saw first hand the fickleness of the game during his last round.  Where his contenders fell into pot bunkers, missed putts from a few feet away, had their balls blown away out of bounds, his shots always seemed to be magically protected.  Twice his ball jumped over bunkers onto waiting greens.  Countless times he had to save par from lengthy distances to keep the momentum going, just as other players crept ever closer.  Just as quickly as Phil rolled in an eagle to tie him at the top, he too rolls in an eagle to just ahead by two.  While the weather and golfing chances of everyone around him rose and fell, Darren remained calm (at least seemingly).  It seemed like he was just taking a stroll on a sunday, cig in his fingers, sun on his face, smile plastered on his mug.  He faced dangers but they never seemed to faze them.  He played along, like many of us in our sunday rounds, just happy to be on the course.  In the end,   the so-called golf gods appeared to have found favor with Darren and he found victory, a victory for the ages.  This win was not achieved by our preset golfing deity, they of the laser focus and the 300 yard drives, but by a golfing buddy, the one we’ll have a pint with in the 19th hole.


Say what you will about his career, Darren was always beloved.  Not only for the memory of his loss in 2006 and his triumph in the K Club, but more because of the fact that he was a man we could all relate to.  He was the bloke we drank beer and smoked cigars with.  He was one to share ribald jokes with, slapping backs in the midst of side splitting laughter.  He was not of the flat bellied set but more like the local pro at the muni.  He is relatable, reachable one of us.  Seeing him lift the jug, seemingly in representation of all of us duffers.  He was declared the champion golfer of the year.  Nay, he is our champion golfer of the year… the one who gave us that nice fuzzy feeling inside.


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