Triumphant Darren: I did it for my boys
Northern Ireland golf ace Darren Clarke yesterday dedicated an emotional golf title win to his young sons.
The dramatic victory at the BMW Asian Open was his first tournament triumph since his wife Heather tragically died from cancer in August 2006.
"It was always going to be a difficult hurdle for me to get back into the winner's enclosure after Heather passed away," said the 39-year-old.
"It's a big mental hurdle that I have overcome today."
Darren clinched the win with a putt of around 30 feet on the 18th hole. That gave him a one shot win over playing partner Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands.
The tournament win, which comes with a cheque for $383,000, was his first success on the European Tour since 2003, and his 11th in total.
When he won the the NEC Invitational in America in 2003, that made him the only other person apart from Tiger Woods to have won more than one world golf title and it still remains the case to this day.
But Darren said yesterday's victory was the most important of his career as it marked his golfing comeback following his wife's tragic death.
Speaking of his deep turmoil after losing Heather, he said: "Sometimes there's a black hole. It's not easy to see through."
He also said: "This win is for Tyrone and Conor" — adding that he wanted to thank all his friends who had supported him over the last 20 months.
But the big man also admitted he had had difficulty staying focused during the final holes.
"My mind started going from about 14 onwards and I lost my concentration and started thinking about Heather and the boys and if you can't keep your concentration for the whole way round you make mistakes," he said.
"But on the last hole I gathered myself and hit a good putt and luckily it went in.
"This is the very top. I have been working harder than I have ever worked before on all aspects of my game. I have been putting in nine-hour days and it is nice to see it pay off."
Darren, who had been a mainstay in Europe's Ryder Cup team for years, helped his team home to victory in the 2006 tournament, just weeks after Heather's death.
But since then, he has watched his world ranking plummet out of the top 50 to 236 at the start of the BMW Asian Open at Shanghai.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, members of his old club said no-one deserved to win more than Darren.
And Sean T Hughes, Honorary Secretary of Dungannon Golf Club, where Darren and his family are lifelong members, said the victory was long overdue.
"We have been waiting in the club for this to happen after all the trouble Darren has gone through over the past few years," he said.
"The members of Dungannon Club look upon Dungannon as being Darren's home and we are delighted that once again he is a winner.
"We are hoping this form of Darren's continues and that he will take his place in the next Ryder Cup tournament."
Club barman David Parker said the good news had caused much excitement in local circles.
"Everyone is over the moon. We are all delighted for Darren and his family," he said.
"Everyone here at the club was watching the tournament and we've all been talking about it all day. It's good to see it coming."