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How Darren Clarke and Alison Campbell fell for each other

BY JOANNE FLEMING

SOME lovers' eyes first meet across a crowded room – but one Northern Ireland celebrity couple hadn't even met when they were attracted to each other.

It wasn't model agency boss Alison Campbell's looks or Open winner Darren Clarke's sporting genius on the fairways that sparked romance – but their mutual sarcastic wit and wicked sense of humour.

The former Miss Northern Ireland and golfing legend became engaged in December 2011 and married in April 2012 on the beach at Abaco in the Bahamas, where they also have a home.

They met after they were set up on a blind date by Darren's friend and fellow golfer Graeme McDowell in November 2009.

"It was blind in the fact that we had never met each other in person before," she said. "He texted me on a Sunday. He was getting on a plane to come back from Hong Kong.

"I said to my son Philip: 'I've just got this text from Darren Clarke. What will I reply?' He said: 'Who's Darren Clarke?' Philip meant that as a joke because he knew who he was."

They arranged to meet at Heathrow Airport, she revealed. And as she got off the plane he texted: "How will I know you?"

"I'm the one in the silver hot pants with the gold knee-high boots," was her reply. "Just to scare him a bit. He had Googled me at this stage, he'd seen pictures."

Revealing "a little black dress and a big long coat" was what she was actually wearing, Ms Campbell said she was taken on her blind date to a restaurant.

The chemistry was natural, she said "because we'd been in contact on the phone and by texting. I'd picked up his sarcastic wit and he'd picked up mine."

The couple have two children each from previous marriages. Alison has Philip (22) and Stuart (26) and Darren also has Tyrone (15) and Conor (13). Darren's first wife Heather died of breast cancer aged 39 in 2006.

Talking about becoming a step-mother, the former Miss Northern Ireland said they all enjoyed a "fantastic relationship".

"It is like deja vu because my boys have four years between them, but it was like big brother, little brother," she said.

"Darren's are the same: big brother, little brother. "We knew it was pretty serious from the start. I think the second time I went over to meet him I met his boys."

Speaking about her first marriage at just 23 to Arthur Campbell, she said: "All my friends were getting married at the time and it was the thing to (do). I had no long relationships before I met him, because when I was at school I didn't have boyfriends.

"It was 19 years of marriage. Then, sadly, the marriage broke up. We were just... you know, going in different directions. We stayed together.

"We had the two kids. We brought them up, but we couldn't see ourselves spending the rest of our lives together."

PROFILES

Darren Clarke's marriage to Alison Campbell marked a new chapter in his life after the death of his first wife Heather to breast cancer in 2006.

After her death the Dungannon man was hailed a hero when he famously soldiered on to help take Europe to victory over the US in the 2006 Ryder Cup.

Alison Campbell, from a farming family in Strabane, worked in the Ulster Bank in Belfast, won the Miss Northern Ireland title in 1982 and was a runner-up in the UK version. She later set up her own model agency.

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