Darren Clarke started playing golf at the age of 11 and earned his first victory in 1993 at the Alfred Dunhill Open. A longtime member of the European Ryder Cup team, he defeated Tiger Woods to clinch his first PGA Tour win in 2000. After overcoming the loss of his wife to breast cancer, Clarke won his first major title at the 2011 Open Championship.
Pro Golf Career
Athlete and professional golfer Darren Clarke was born on August 14, 1968, in Dungannon, Northern Ireland. Clarke started playing golf at the age of 11 and sometimes caddied for his father. He turned professional in 1990. Clarke earned his first victory three years later at the Alfred Dunhill Open. Clarke was a member of the European team at the 1997 and 1999 Ryder Cup events. He defeated Tiger Woods to clinch his first PGA Tour win in 2000 at the WGC-Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship.
Prone to tantrums, Clarke often got frustrated when he wasn't playing as well as he thought he could. Off the course, he became known for his love of wine, cigarettes and cars. He even owned a Ferrari with the license plate "DC 60" – his initials and his lowest round score. Clarke was the first European player to score 60 twice in competition.
Clarke's life took a dramatic turn in December 2001 when his wife, Heather, was diagnosed with breast cancer. He took stock of his life and returned to the game with a new attitude, working to keep his anger in check. He also started a fitness regime, which helped him lose 30 pounds. His hard work paid off. Clarke won the Compass Group English Open in 2002 and achieved his second PGA Tour victory the following year at WGC-NEC Invitational. He was also a part of the winning European team at the Ryder Cup in 2002 and 2004.
Clarke again experienced personal hardship when his wife began another battle against cancer in 2005. He played only 12 events that year, choosing to focus on his wife and two young sons, Tyrone and Conor. Clarke still managed to finish in the Top 10 of five of those events. The next year, his wife's condition worsened. She died in August 2006.
Overcoming Personal Loss
Despite his grief, Clarke joined the 2006 European team at the Ryder Cup. A fan favorite, Clarke was cheered on by the crowds and his peers offered their condolences. Clarke and Lee Westwood, playing as a team, beat Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk. The pair achieved another victory over Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco. On the final day of the event, everyone watched as Clarke defeated Zach Johnson in a singles match, helping his team secure a win over the Americans. During the competition, Clarke showed the world his superior skills as a golfer, even in the face of such a great personal loss.
Having regained some stability in his life off the course, Clarke topped the field at the BMW Asian Open and the KLM Open in 2008. He notched the biggest victory of his career at the 2011 Open Championship, his first major title after more than 20 years as a pro.
Clarke was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2011. He remarried in April 2012, to former Miss Northern Ireland Alison Campbell.
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