Darren Clarke paid homage to the great Fred Daly when he returned to Royal Portrush in triumph –now he will afford Padraig Harrington the same honour in Killarney.
A week after he presented his Open gold medal to the Ulster links he now calls home, Clarke will meet up with Harrington for the first time since his Sandwich victory.
Clarke’s medal will sit alongside the memento of Daly’s 1947 win in the trophy cabinet that adorns the stairway at Portrush.
The two gold medals represent the first and the last Irish wins in the Majors but Clarke won’t forget the man who ended a 60-year-famine when he meets Harrington at this week’s Irish Open.
“Padraig’s three Majors may have been forgotten by some people with all the success Irish golf has had recently but not by me,” declared Darren ahead of his return to active service in Kerry on Thursday.
“He is the one who started winning the Majors for us again of late and I believe he is the one who inspired Graeme McDowell first, then Rory McIlroy and then me to go on and do what we have done.
“His breakthrough at the Open, 60 years after Fred Daly won it, made it all possible for the rest of us.
“I know I was thinking then that if Padraig can do it, then so can I. It has taken me a lot longer than him to get around to doing it but I got there eventually.”
Harrington may have missed the cut at Royal St George’s but he stayed in Kent long enough to wish Clarke well on his own journey to glory.
“I did see him just before I went out on Sunday for the final round and he gave me a big hug,” revealed Clarke. “He told me that he was thrilled for me and that he really hoped I’d win and stuff and that meant a lot to me.
“I haven’t seen him since but I will be saying thank you when we meet up in Killarney this week.”
Now one of four Irish Major winners heading for the national championship on the Killeen course, Clarke hopes recent success abroad rubs off on the competition closer to home.
“I would hope it will be easier to get a sponsor now for the Irish Open,” added the 2011 Open Champion.
“The success we have all had of late can only help and I hope it does because this tournament deserves to be a success for many years to come.
“It is one of the oldest and biggest events on the European Tour and it deserves to succeed.
“We might even have a bit of competition amongst the Irish champions this week, maybe me and Padraig against the kids. We are just so rich in talent in Irish golf at present so hopefully the fans will come out and support the event like they did last year. I’m sure they will.”
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