Family affair for proud Darren Clarke as Queen honours Northern Ireland golf hero
With his glamorous wife Alison and two sons by his side, champion golfer Darren Clarke beamed with pride as he showed off his OBE.
Looking dapper in his top hat and tails, the Open winner posed on the steps of Buckingham Palace yesterday after meeting the Queen.
His young sons Tyrone and Conor, both dressed for the occasion in smart suits and ties, stood either side of the smiling couple for a family portrait that will no doubt now take pride of place in their north coast home.
Alison, who married the Dungannon man in a hush-hush beach wedding earlier this year, looked elegant and demure in a black knee length dress, smart jacket and wide-brimmed black hat.
The golf star appeared thrilled with his honour and said he was delighted to be able to share the moment with his family.
Referring to his first wife Heather, who lost her fight with breast cancer in 2006, he said: “She would have been proud of me
but more proud of the kids than me, sitting in there and seeing the Queen.”
Clarke, who was joined at the ceremony by popstar Gary Barlow and actress Kate Winslet, admitted that meeting the Queen was more “nerve-racking” than playing in a major tournament.
“It is right up there, but the Open and Ryder Cup were much easier than this,” he said.
Clarke, who displayed one of the greatest performances in the history of the Ryder Cup at the K Club near Dublin just six weeks after Heather's death, said it was a “great honour” to meet the Queen.
“She asked me about the golf and the charity things as well,” he said.
The golfer set up the Darren Clarke Foundation in his first wife's memory after her death.
The 44-year-old, who won his first Major at the Open Championship in Royal St George's in Kent in July 2011, posted a photograph of himself with the Queen on Twitter.
He said: “Her Majesty presenting me with the OBE”.
Earlier he tweeted: “A very proud day at Buckingham Palace with Alison, Tyrone and Conor meeting the Queen and receiving my OBE.”
Clarke was congratulated on his OBE by a number of well-known sportsmen, including fellow Northern Irish golfer Graeme McDowell, rugby star Danny Cipriani and footballer Robbie Fowler.
... and G-Mac has special engagement of his own
By Maureen Coleman
He celebrated his 30th birthday and his 2010 US Open triumph in his home town of Portrush.
So it is likely golfer Graeme McDowell will mark his engagement to his American girlfriend Kristin Stape (below) with a bash at the seaside.
The 33-year-old proposed to Ms Stape, an interior designer in her native Florida, while in Dubai.
He got down on one knee at the Burj Al Arab hotel's 700ft-high helideck and popped the question — much to her surprise.
“I did it properly, getting down on one knee,” he revealed.
“She had no idea what was going on and was shocked and stunned. I even found myself getting a little bit emotional.
“It was a very special location, looking out over Dubai.”
He said the wedding would probably take place “at the end of next year”.
Among those who congratulated the happy couple was G-Mac’s close friend, Portush stalwart Alan Simpson.
The radio host said he was delighted for the pair and told the Belfast Telegraph he was expecting a telephone call to help organise an engagement party at G-Mac's favourite venue.
“When Graeme turned 30 he had his party at the Ramore Wine Bar in Portrush,” he said. “When he won the US Open, he had his party at the Ramore. I think it's safe to say there'll be some sort of party to celebrate his engagement back home in Portrush.”
Alan said he had suspected that an engagement was on the cards.
Alan also said he already knew what he was going to buy the couple for their engagement gift.
“I'll be getting them his and hers T-shirts saying ‘I Love the North Coast',” he said.
McDowell met Ms Stape when he hired her company to work on the new four-bedroom house he's built on the exclusive Lake Nona golf estate in Orlando.
“So now she'll be moving into the house she's designed,” he quipped.
“Hopefully she's built a house she likes because it'll cost me a lot of money if we have to change it.”