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With the recent conclusion of The 140th British Open Championship, there are many storylines that the can be focused on. Some of theses storylines include, the Success of Chubby Chandler, the wave of success that golfers from Northern Ireland have enjoyed and the struggles of Rory McIlroy, but more importantly the triumph of McIlroy’s fellow countryman, Darren Clarke, who was able to win his first major championship.
Luck of the Irish
It is the luck and fortune of Northern Ireland that is catching the golf world by surprise. With Darren Clarke’s recent British Open win, Northern Ireland has, “more of golf’s recent major champions than anyplace on Earth.” Speaking of Northern Ireland’s recent success, Clarke, a native of Northern Ireland himself, says, “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.”
The win by Clarke gives Northern a reason to boast; he is “Northern Ireland’s third major champion in the past 13 months” and cements the small country of Northern Ireland as the home to “three of the last six major winners.”
What makes Northern Ireland’s recent success and triumphs all the more amazing is the countries small size and population. As Jeff Shain, of the Orlando Sentinel, pointedly writes, “Statistically speaking, Northern Ireland covers about the same amount of land as Connecticut and boasts a population equivalent to metropolitan Charlotte.”
Obviously, one major storyline coming into this British Open was how Rory McIlroy would fair, especially after coming off a phenomenal performance at the U.S. Open back in June. After shooting a dazzling total of 16 under par, though four days at the U.S. Open, McIlroy was rightly favored to win going into the British Open championship.
Compared to the caliber of play he showed he is capable of during the U.S. Open, McIlroy couldn’t muster up anything close to the same performance during this championship; McIlroy finished at a dismal seven over par through four days. Even more horrendous was the fact that McIlroy finished the tournament tied for 25th on the leader board. The fact is he put up a very ugly and lackluster performance.
This British Open was Clarke’s 54th major of his career and his first major win; there is no doubt the guy has been around the block. Despite the 42-year-old Clarke not being as well recognized as the Tiger Woods’s and Rory McIlroy’s of the world, his win at the British Open cannot but be admired, especially considering his past.
The guy has gone through adversity. “Clarke lost his wife, Heather, to [breast] cancer in 2006”. Despite this devastating loss, Clarke has rebounded from this solemn past. Clarke’s turnaround from this heartbreaking tragedy is a story that defines perseverance; one would be hard pressed not to feel happy for the guy.
As BBC Sports reporter and blogger Rob Hodgetts eloquently states about Clarkes triumph at the Open championship “this is the vindication for a man who has weathered his share of life’s storms, but kept his eye on the prize and not lost his belief ”. Before the Open trophy, Clarke was quoted saying, “I always believed I would get myself back up here…I always believed I had enough talent to challenge and win one.”
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that everyone who knows Clarke gets along with him. He is liked by many of his piers on the PGA Tour quite possibly because of his genuine and easygoing personality. In reference to Clarke, Hodgetts says, “The man from Dungannon [Northern Ireland] had always been popular, with the public and fellow pros alike.
A man the fans could identify with, not a gym-obsessed robot. A man who liked a drink and a smoke and carried a bit of weight. Downing a pint of Guinness on the K Club balcony in celebration only served to reinforce the image.” He’s a down to earth guy who doesn’t mind having a bit of fun.
An equally compelling storyline at the recently played British Open, is Agent Chubby Chandler’s. Chandler represents some of golf’s biggest stars, including all three of the golfers that have won major championships this year. If Chandler ends up representing the winner of the PGA Championship this year, a new term might come of it; that term is the “Chubby Slam”. “This year Charl Schwartzel (who won US Masters in April), Rory McIlroy and Clarke make up three-parts of the “Chubby Slam”.
The term grand slam in golf means that a golfer has won all four major championships in the same year. These four majors are, the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Because he isn’t a golfer, Chubby Chandler isn’t technically qualified to win the grand slam.
However, if Chandler ends up representing the PGA champion, he would be an agent who has notched all four majors this year. If in fact Chandler does end up representing the winner for each of the four majors (this year), one could argue, it would be notionally the same as winning the grand slam.
Three Northern Irishmen: Three Competitors And Three Friends
Graeme McDowell, who was last year’s U.S. Open champion, relinquished this year’s U.S. Open trophy to his fellow countryman in Rory McIlroy. Following his outstanding performance at the U.S. Open (this year), McIlroy was heavily favored coming into the British Open (this year). However, like he beat Graeme McDowell (this year) Darren Clarke beat him in the British Open.
First, Graeme McDowell won a major, then, so did Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke. These three fellow countrymen who are challengers on the golf course now share the bond of winning a major like the bond of friendship they share off the course. Despite their competitiveness on the golf course, all three have an unwavering unity for Northern Ireland and admiration and each other.
All three are known to be close friends. Speaking of the relationship, Clarke says, There’s a huge rivalry between us all, but also a huge respect. We all get on great, otherwise we wouldn’t be in Chubby’s stable. We hang out and eat with each other a lot. But stepping on to the first tee, the competition is there and always has been.”
The Story starts with Clarke, who showed McDowell and McIlroy the path to success. As agent Chubby Chandler says, “Darren led them…Darren was the one who set the bar, went over [to the United States]. G-Mac’s followed him, and now Rory. It’s a great thing. They all look up to him.”
These guys all look up to one another and are truly supportive friends as well. This might be attributed to the fact that, “Northern Ireland is a very small place. It’s all a very close-knit community.” For example, it was Clarke who convinced McIlroy to sign with ISM’s (International Sports Management’s) agent, Chubby Chandler.
Now, these guys are tweeting each other and partying together after their big wins. After Clarke’s recent win at the British Open, McDowell tweeted, “Darren Clarke aiming to be the first Northern Irish golfer to win a major in almost four weeks!” McIlroy was equally excited by Clarke’s win tweeting “And the winner of the gold medal, the champion golfer of the year, from northern Ireland DARREN CLARKE!!!!!” In another tweet McIlroy proclaimed gleefully, “Northern Ireland…..Golf capital of the world!!” Since Clarkes win, MacIlroy has also tweeted, “@Theprincedc [Darren Clarke]” saying “you’ve made everyone proud!”
Despite the age difference between these guys, they still celebrate together too. There have been many parties taking place in Northern Ireland lately due to the success of these three guys. There was a “Party for G-Mac [last year] at Portrush and party for Rory a couple of weeks ago,” said Clarke.
“I’m sure they’ll have another one this week.” Clarke even skipped a tournament in Germany to join McIlroy in celebrating his US Open victory. The day after Clarke’s triumph McDowell tweeted, he will, “probably [be] drinking a few pints with the 2011 Open Champ”. And how right he was; McDowell has since shared celebratory details of the three friends tweeting, “I won theGuinness pint-drinking contest (vs McIlroy & Clarke). That’s my first win of the season.”
Clarke said it all when he proclaimed, “We’re blessed to have obviously two fantastic players in Rory and Graeme and I’m just the old guy coming along behind them.” Clarke may be older but lest anyone forget, he is a core member of the fantastic trio from Northern Ireland that has taken the majors by storm, and he certainly enjoys a fresh pint of Guinness and a good celebration to boot, with his two fellow countrymen.
I am sure that there are many people out there who will say this British Open wasn’t at all compelling, however I am not one of them. I was heartened to see 42-year-old Darren Clarke win a major. I am particularly heartened, because of the tumultuous hardship he must have gone through when his former wife passed away.
Now, Clarke can bask in the glory of what he has been dreaming since he was a young boy: winning the British Open. In the words of Clarke, it’s been a dream since I’ve been a kid to win the Open, like any kid’s dream is, and I’m able to do it, which just feels incredible.”
For me the Open was spectacular to watch. I was personally thrilled and enthralled seeing Darren Clarke accomplish this gratifying achievement and to see Clarke finally capture something he had been dreaming of, almost all his life. For a while the dream eluded Clarke; but, due to his perseverance, the dream finally came true.
Image Courtesy of http://pga.com