With 20 years of practice behind him, Darren Clarke has finally won his first major championship. At 42, he is the oldest player to win The Open since 1967 when Roberto de Vicenzo took home the trophy. When asked about his age, Clarke said, “I still feel like I can compete with the best in the world.”
Weather was the real competition. The often instant switch from driving sideways rain and 35 mph wind gusts to beautiful sunshine kept players on their toes throughout the week. But while everyone else struggled in the wind, Clarke’s low-driven shots were right on target. His scores were 68-68-69-70 and he finished 5 under on a course that beat all but four players. Mickleson was his only other major competition, but any chances he had of winning were dashed when he hit his approach on 18 into the grandstands and then 2 putted. Clarke beat him even after bogeying the last two holes.
Clarke is the third Northern Irishman to win in the past 6 Grand Slam events. His win took him from 111th to 30th in the world. He moves to 6th in the European race to Dubai, and has guaranteed himself a spot in every major tournament for the next 5 years.
The best part about seeing Clarke take home the tourney? It’s just like watching one of your buddies win. He smokes. He goes out drinking with his friends–even cancelling out of his last tournament to come home and party with buddy Rory McIlroy after he won the U.S. Open. He’s got a beer belly and often cracks jokes about his weight. He claims that he can’t wait to go home and buy everyone a pint. He’s a normal guy who just happens to have a Claret Jug on his mantle. Even he seems baffled, having commented, “to sit here with this trophy means the world to me. I’ve dreamt since I was a kid that one day I would do this and now I have, I can’t really believe it.”
But with age, there sometimes comes tragic experience. He lost his wife, Heather, in 2006 following a battle with breast cancer. There were many teary eyes as he mentioned her in his press conference, telling reporters that he knew there was “somebody up there watching. And probably saying, ‘I told you so.’” Adding to the emotion of the moment, he commented that she would probably be prouder of his two sons, Tyrone and Conner.
Darren Clarke’s win serves as a reminder. Never give up on your dreams and never let life get you down. There is always something amazing (possibly silver and shiny) just over the horizon; sometimes you just have to stumble ‘til you get there.