When Darren Clarke won The Open in July, it was one of sport’s greatest triumphs ever. Not just by someone from our wee country, but by someone from any country.
It was a phenomenal achievement.
And a hugely popular one too.
Darren, you see, isn’t just a golfer or a sports star.
He’s a man we’ve all grown to care about.
And to see him win the tournament he wanted most on that wet and blustery day in Kent at Royal St Georges was a joy to behold.
In the past when in contention at major events, Darren had let his chance slip.
And as the years passed by with him getting older and young champions such as Rory McIlroy emerging, just about everyone thought that Darren’s opportunity to claim a big one had come and gone.
Thankfully Clarke saw things differently back in July, playing the golf of his life in appalling conditions to lift the Claret Jug.
While others struggled in the biting wind he soared to complete a fairytale that even Hans Christian Andersen couldn’t have imagined.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the clubhouse when he made his victory speech stating that someone was looking down on him in reference to his beloved late wife Heather, who had lost her brave battle with cancer five years earlier.
On the back of winning The Open, Darren enjoyed himself. Boy, did he enjoy himself. And why wouldn’t he?
He’d been waiting his whole sporting life for this and here in his 40s his dream had finally come true.
There was criticism in the week after his Open success that he was out on the lash too much and too publicly.
At the time I thought the begrudgers weren’t giving our national hero a break.
He was entitled to savour the moment. And if that meant having an extra cigar or two or several pints of Guinness, well good luck to him.
Four months later though the party still seems to be going on.
It’s as if the golf tournaments that Darren is competing in have become secondary to one long lap of honour.
That appeared to be the case in the north Atlantic holiday island of Bermuda this week where Darren was taking part in the Grand Slam of Golf with the three other 2011 major winners, one of which was compatriot and good friend Rory McIlroy.
The Grand Slam of Golf is like the Charity Shield in football — more important to be in it than win it — but I’m sure Darren would have liked to have put on a show for the watching spectators.
By the end of the 36 hole event he had finished 13 shots behind the eventual winner Keegan Bradley.
A poor couple of days can happen to anyone on a golf course, but there’s been a few too many of them lately.
How long before tournament sponsors and the paying public begin to feel short-changed?
After the Slam had finished Darren stated that he was looking forward to a bad hangover in the morning.
His legions of fans all over the world and here in Northern Ireland would prefer to see the 43-year-old back hitting more stunning shots on the fairways.
Dungannon’s finest, now residing in Portrush, still has plenty of good golf left in him.
There might even be another major in the locker. Putts have to come before parties though for that to happen. One major title is great. Two would be even better.