MOMENTS after his unexpected victory at The Open on Sunday, an emotional Darren Clarke dedicated his triumph to his children, both pupils at Dalriada in Ballymoney.
He said that sons Tyrone and Conor, left motherless when his wife Heather died of breast cancer less than five years ago, had spent Sunday playing golf in Portrush, the Dungannon golfer’s adopted home.
“It’s incredible – it really is,” the 42-year-old said of his achievement, adding: “It’s for the kids. They played Royal Portrush this morning and were watching on TV.”
Clarke won the tournament despite being ranked just 111th in the world when it began on Thursday and believed by some to be past his best.
But such is the prestige of The Open that the victory has catapulted him to number 30.
The 42-year-old, the oldest man to lift the Claret Jug since Roberto de Vicenzo in 1967, is only the sixth player to win a major from outside the world’s top 100 since the rankings started in 1986.
“It’s just incredible, I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless,” said Clarke, who lifted the Claret Jug at his 20th attempt. “I played okay today, I did what I needed to do.
“The last couple of holes I was trying not to make any stupid mistakes. I just tried to play really carefully and it was good enough to win.”
As for the celebrations, Clarke said: “I think they will be very, very long and I’ll be very hungover.”
Clarke was playing the 54th major of his career and had not had a top 10-finish in them for a decade, but did claim his 13th European Tour title in Majorca in May.
“I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get with it and I’ve been very comfortable with myself this week,” he said.
Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, the victor added: “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.”
And, in a reference to his late wife, he said: “I’d like to thank my parents and my fiancee Alison, and there’s someone up there watching as well. To everybody, thank you very much.”