Given that this blog has in the past celebrated the achievements of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, the European Ryder Cup team and Padraig Harrington it’s shockingly remiss that I’ve not yet managed a post about Darren Clarke.
The big Dungannon man’s Open triumph was the pick of the bunch when it came to defying the odds. At 42 most experts had written off his prospects of picking up a major title.
Last night, though, the BBC got to screen its now traditional documentary, charting the home-coming of yet another major champion. It was a bit of a tear-jerker, capturing emotional scenes as Darren brought the claret jug back to his family in Portrush and to his two sons.
Now Clarke is a nice guy, but he’s not one of the generation of non-descript, clean-cut, identikit sports stars. The documentary captured an awful lot of drinking, alongside the formal celebrations and (let’s be honest) a little on screen inebriation. Some pompous asses have chosen to focus on this and describe Darren as a “bad example”.
I’d prefer to highlight the years of dedication that it took to hone his skills, the affable, down to earth personality which ensures that Clarke has time for all his fans and the manifestly warm and loving relationship that he has with his sons. All these factors seem a darn sight more important in the scale of things than his fondness for a pint of Guinness or a fag after he’s finished the front 9.
One of the great things about golf is that you don’t need to be a super-fit gym monkey to compete at the highest level (although actually it can help). Is it therefore a coincidence that it’s one of the few sports which still boasts a fair smattering of larger than life personalities?
There’s John Daly with his ridiculous trousers and rust-belt mullet, Miguel Angel Jimenez with his mighty gut, advertising an appreciation for the finer things in life and Ian Poulter with his flamboyant dress sense and heart on sleeve tweeting. People certainly love Darren because he’s come through adversity to achieve his dream, but they also love him because they can identify with him and imagine sharing one or two of those Guinnesses he enjoys so much.
Truth is, before he captured that revered piece of silverware last week most of his critics wouldn’t have known the difference had it been his habit to smoke a six foot tall hookah coming up the 18th fairway, nor would they have cared.
A great, down-to-earth, warm Ulsterman has just won the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. Let’s just enjoy it with him and stop being so judgemental.