Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Darren Clarke toasts life as a Major winner - with another pint

Nothing is going to change, says fun-loving Open champ

British Open Championship winner Darren Clarke returns to his adopted hometown club, Royal Portrush
British Open Championship winner Darren Clarke returns to his adopted hometown club, Royal Portrush
Darren Clarke with Alison Campbell. 'Everything is fantastic at the moment,' he says

Open champion Darren Clarke has promised that his Major triumph will not change him - vowing to continue the flamboyant lifestyle of hard drinking and high living, which has endeared him to golf fans everywhere.

Nearly 1,000 people crowded outside Clarke's adopted hometown club of Royal Portrush, as Northern Ireland's newest sporting hero returned home to a rapturous welcome.

The Dungannon-born star became only the second Northern Ireland golfer to lift the sport's greatest prize, when he won the 140th Open Championship at Royal St George's at the weekend.

Less than 48 hours after holing the winning putt, Clarke was back at Royal Portrush to present his coveted winner's medal to the club, where it will go on display next to Fred Daly's 1947 accolade.

And while he has followed the trail blazed by more recent Major champions Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Clarke insisted he was not about to follow their health-conscious regimes.

"The other two don't partake in as much Guinness as I do," he grinned.

Asked would his Open victory change anything, Clarke replied: "Absolutely not, no. Nothing will change at all."

Two years ago, Clarke reportedly marked his 40th birthday by sinking 40 pints of Guinness, while he puffed away on a cigarette as he completed his final round on Sunday.

It is that fun-loving lifestyle which Clarke believes has made him such a popular winner.

"I like a pint and a smoke and I do all the things I shouldn't do compared to the rest of the athletes out there," he added.

"I'm a little bit different, a little bit older, allegedly wiser, and I tend to try and have as much fun as I can.

"I think people can identify with that."

Clarke said he had been moved to tears by the hundreds of texts and messages of support which have poured in since the weekend victory.

"There is a lot of support coming from many different people and a lot of them brought tears to my eyes," he added. It is fantastic to know it meant that much to so many people."

But he vowed not to be distracted by the hysteria - and admitted there are plenty of people waiting to bring him back down to earth.

"If I was to get any way above my station, I have a few good friends who would give me a clip around the ear and tell me to settle down a little, so there is no chance of me getting carried away," he joked.

Clarke also spoke of his hope that Northern Ireland's hat-trick of Major triumphs can change people's perception of the region - despite the violence which marred McIlroy's homecoming last month.

"After Rory came back home, unfortunately there was rioting on the streets of Belfast," he added.

"Maybe people in the past had a very one-sided view of what happens in Northern Ireland, but 99.9% of the people you'll meet here will be genuine, honest, friendly people and that's what we're like."

At 42, many thought Clarke's best days were behind him. But after rolling back the years at The Open, he remains hopeful of capturing another Major.

"My goal and burning desire throughout all my career was to win this trophy, and I've managed to do that," he said.

"Now I need to sit down at some stage later this week and try and figure out a couple of new goals.

"If I can, more Majors is obviously what I would like to do, and if I do achieve that, fantastic.

"But if I don't, my name will always be on this."

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