Monday, 18 July 2011
Clarkey of the Course
Look golf is a stupid game. I’ve never liked it, not least cos it is the one sport that makes me violent in the extreme. I reckon I could make a decent cage-fighter if I went straight into the ring following a windswept nine holes.
To me, golf is one of them weird ritualised sanctuaries of the middle class. Like Waitrose. Or Cafe Bastard Rouge. It’s all Pringle sweaters and business chit-chat; the sort of place where comfortable finance directors discuss Audi TTs and share-prices while tutting over their bifocals cos I’ve been playing in me trainers.
There’s never a decent ale on tap and the only totty represented there still seems to be the middle-aged wife of the treasurer heaving herself around behind the bar with all the alacrity of a hibernating bear with arthritis.
To me, golf clubs are just a sinister cover for a heinous scheme to clone Peter Alliss. Shudder.
So it comes of a bit of a surprise when someone wins a golf tournament and I end up with tears in me eyes.
As I say, golf is a loveless pursuit. For every decent strike there’s a dozen evil twists of fate that make you feel like you'd happily rotivate every mother-fecking piece of turf that ever played host to a pimpled ball and chuck it into the back garden of a Hebridean crofter to fuel his peat-fired aga for the rest of his bleeding days.
But Darren Clarke, eh? Has there been a more welcome winner of anything in the past few decades? Really?
Even putting aside the personal tragedy the bloke’s endured, here’s a man who visibly enjoys his life. In this era of dietary fascism, where pastry is the devil’s work and a deep-fried bread-crumbed piece of flesh can only be eaten responsibly if some supermarket think-tank has labelled it a ‘goujon’, here we have a sportsman whose chosen method of perambulation is the lumber. That’s when he’s not grinning through the fug of a cheerful B&H, or gabbling happily over a third Guinness.
Put simply, he’s a bit like you and me is Darren. Twenty years he’s been cuffing a white dot through the gorse and grass of Britain’s links, and somehow smiling through it. Up until now, you’d have thought that his greatest triumph was the heart-tugging holing out at the K Club in Ireland to secure the Ryder Cup in 2006 – all in the wake of the death of wife Heather, who unsurprisingly was as popular a golf wife as ever there was.
Of course what made the victory even sweeter was the fact that you spent the whole day waiting for him to fall away. There were much more heralded players who had already ducked under the Open canvass for a sheltered weekend.
I’m not sure Lee Westwood will win a major. There’s something about his humble demeanour and that Agassi-style waddle that never quite convinces. And the new world number one Luke Donald looked as happy in the wind and rain as a Royal Ascot debutante.
Clarke though has spent his last few months back in Northern Ireland and I dunno about you but every time I’ve looked at the weather forecast recently I’ve been half expecting to see the province relocated somewhere in the North Sea such has been the crapness of their weather.
People say that links golf is a bit of a lottery, and maybe fortune plays its part there more than say the manicured and preposterously fake technicolor avenues of some of them American courses, where even the water hazards are dyed blue to convince the homeys that they’re real.
To be fair, the Americans were dogged at this tournament and at one point yesterday it seemed inevitable that Mickelson, wielding his club like an expert whittler, was going to storm past even the Ulster Teddy Bear and lift the jug himself.
One word for you son - haircut
At one point you thought that the young lad Ricky Fowler – impossibly not yet the name of an EastEnders character and dressed like a camp Blackpool fan – would get back in it.
Then there was the little-known American (to me any road) who looked destined to grab the trophy. The lad Dustin could certainly drive a ball further than I could a car. But thankfully he carved one out of bounds, as if recognising that to deny Clarkey would’ve been an act of pure villainy. Let’s face it none of us have forgiven Stewart Cink for denying Tom Watson – a man who has a turtleneck even when he’s not wearing that style of sweater - his victory in 2009, the slap-headed God-fearing git.
And so, as if moving to the strains of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ (walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain), the Ulsterman strode on mightily and wonderfully.
I heard him in a press conference this morning. He’d had no sleep, he was slurring with emotion and no doubt booze. He wasn’t quite the staggering pisshead that was Freddie Flintoff in 2005, but he wasn’t far off.
Great sporting boozers of our time
Today he goes back home to Portrush to be with his two lads. He’s got a fiancée n all, and she’s easy on the eye, I reckon.
Nah, it’s hard to believe but sometimes the right people win. It’s not always the narrow-eyed cold-blooded egomaniacs that lift sport’s greatest prizes. Not only were we partisan Brits delighted that the transatlantic threat was extinguished, so was every other golfer that walked the course this weekend.
Of course this means three Northern Irishmen have won a golf major in the last 13 months. The R&A are looking at maybe hosting a future Open in the province. Mate it’s the least you can do. Apart from anything else, a good old gale and the odd bit of horizontal hail doesn’t do the chances of our doughiest players any harm at all.
And yet despite all this, I’m still not going to my local pitch n putt this week. Cos golf is, as I say, the stupidest of games.