Darren Clarke remembered his late wife Heather as he came to terms with his British Open success and life as a Major winner.
Less than a month after Rory McIlroy’s triumph in the US Open at Congressional, Clarke stormed his way to the Open title at Sandwich.
Ranked 111th in the world going into the tournament and without a top 10 finish in a major in over a decade, Clarke finally lifted the British Open crown at the 20th time of asking.
As he celebrated with a pint of his beloved Guinness, Clarke admitted he had some help ‘from above’, six years after his wife Heather died of breast cancer.
Now happily back home in Portrush, where he lives with sons Conor and Tyrone and fiancée Alison Campbell, Clarke remembered Heather in his hour of triumph.
“In terms of what’s going through my heart there’s obviously somebody who is watching down from up above,” he said.
“I know she’d be very proud of me. She’d probably be saying ‘I told you so’. But I think she’d be more proud of my two boys. It’s been a long journey.
“If I hadn’t won I could still have said I did my best. I ask my two boys to do their best and I can’t ask for any more, so I think their dad should try and do the same.
“Bad times in golf are more frequent than the good times. I’ve always been pretty hard on myself when I fail because I don’t find it very easy to accept that.
“There’s times I’ve been completely and utterly fed up with the game, but friends and family say ‘get out there and practice and keep going’. That’s why I’m sitting here now.
“It’s been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I’ve had so much support from an awful lot of people.
“I’d like to thank my parents and my fiancée Alison, and there’s someone up there watching as well.”
Clarke is the third Major winner from Northern Ireland in the last 13 months, following on from the US Open triumphs of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.
Reigning US champion McIlroy branded the North as the ‘golf capital of the world’ on Twitter after Clarke’s victory and the Open winner agrees.
“It’s just incredible,” said the 42-year-old after becoming the oldest winner of the British Open since 1967.
“We’re blessed to have two fantastic players in Rory and G-Mac and I’m just the old man coming along behind them. It’s fantastic, just brilliant for home.
“We have fantastic golf courses, we have fantastic facilities, but to have three Major champions from a little, small place in a short period of time, it’s just incredible.”
Clarke also revealed that he had received encouragement from Tiger Woods via text messages before Sunday’s final round. And he was bowled over by the reception he received as he sealed his win.
“I certainly had a few thoughts going through my head when I was walking onto the green at 18. If I didn’t feel a little bit emotional it wouldn’t quite be right,” Clarke said. “I was, but just about managed to cling onto it.
“It’s just incredible, I don’t know what to say. It’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid to win the Open.”
Due to start a Weightwatchers diet on Monday, after encouragement from his manager Chubby Chandler, Clarke may now postpone his proposed weight loss.
“Chubby might give me an extra day off if I’m nice to him,” laughed Clarke. “I’ll probably get bored with it in a week and give up.
“There’s five points in a pint of Guinness - I think it’s a real bad week for me to start.”