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Darren Clarke severs all ties with Antrim golf school that uses his name

By Claire McNeilly

Published 23/09/2016

Darren Clarke at the golf school
Darren Clarke at the golf school

Northern Ireland golf star Darren Clarke has severed his links with a Co Antrim golf school operating under his name amid increasing scrutiny of its management.

The 2016 Ryder Cup captain said he was ending his licensing agreement with The Darren Clarke Golf School at Greenmount, near Antrim town.

The 48-year-old's move follows a similar decision by friend and fellow golfer Lee Westwood to cut ties with his eponymous golf schools in Cheshire and Essex.

Both the Clarke and Westwood schools are run by businessman Karl Norris and his wife Noelle.

A spokesperson for Clarke's management agents ISM confirmed that the Dungannon man no longer had any involvement with the school that bears his name.

"Although neither ISM or Darren is aware of any issues or concerns regarding the Darren Clarke Golf School specifically, Darren has served notice to terminate the relevant licence arrangement," said the spokesperson.

Based at the CAFRE Greenmount Campus, the Clarke School - which is the only one of its type in Ireland - has been operating for four years and offers its participants two-year courses aimed at developing and enhancing their golf prowess, education, lifestyle, psychology and fitness.

Its facilities include a USPGA three-hole technical training course, putting and chipping greens, outdoor all-weather driving mats, an eight-bay covered driving range as well as a video analysis unit.

The school could, technically, continue, although without the name, patronage or support of the major-winning golfer.

The association with Clarke was via a licence arrangement only, and the former Open champion had no involvement in the management or day-to-day running of the venture.

There was no-one available to comment when the Belfast Telegraph contacted the Co Antrim school yesterday.

Last week it was reported that the Cheshire branch of the Westwood school was at the centre of a legal dispute over unpaid fees with two sets of parents, who withdrew their children and accused it of poor management and providing substandard tuition.

Investigations by The Times newspaper revealed that the school - which described itself as delivering "a highly robust educational programme within a golfing environment" - was not subject to oversight by Ofsted or the Department for Education.

The Education Funding Agency also published a critical report on the school's subcontracting arrangements, and case papers lodged at Manchester County Court also allege that the Westwood school withheld wages from students who worked at the 2014 Alfred Dunhill championship at St Andrews.

The Westwood school said it would not comment on legal matters but in court submissions it said that students were not paid because the money was held to help pay for the trip to Scotland.

Clarke flies out to Minnesota on Monday to prepare the Europe team for their defence of the Ryder Cup against the United States, who are favourites to end a run of poor results in the world's third largest sporting competition.

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