COLERAINE Borough Council was last night considering ways to honour the new Open champion Darren Clarke following his momentous return to Portrush.
Council could hold a civic reception similar to the one held in Portrush Town Hall when Graeme McDowell won the US Open last year - or even erect road signage in the seaside resort in recognition of Clarke’s remarkable achievement.
Just a few weeks after Rory McIlroy earned a place in the record books as the youngest US Open winner since 1933 and a year after G-Mac’s triumph in the same event, the 42-year-old became the latest member of Northern Ireland’s major club.
As Clarke was travelling home to Portrush yesterday, he expressed hope that Royal Portrush could yet stage the Open - but logistics could be a problem.
“That’s where I would like to see it. From a personal point of view, I would love to see it going to Portrush because it’s every bit as good as any Open venue that’s on the rota right now,” Clarke said after celebrating his victory for most of the night.
“But until the R&A have a look at it – the logistics are huge. This week we’ve had unbelievable crowds, we’ve had 180,000. Do they think they’ll get 180,000 through the gates in Portrush? I’m sure they would but they have to look at other aspects outside of that to make sure the tournament works. The R&A have been doing it for a very long time and they know what’s required.”
Last night a spokesperson for Coleraine Borough Council said Council was formally planning to honour our new Open hero.
A statement said: “Coleraine Borough Council appreciates all of the suggestions which have been received to formally recognise and celebrate local resident Darren Clarke’s success as Open champion 2011.
“Many discussions and plans are already taking place ranging from civic reception to road signage. Information will be forthcoming shortly on the outcomes, and details of which will be immediately updated on Coleraine Borough Council’s website www.colerainebc.gov.uk”
The mayor of Coleraine, Alderman Maurice Bradley, said: “It is a fantastic day for Portrush and Northern Ireland, and I am delighted for Darren and his family. Winning this prestigious major title is an incredible achievement and is testament to his dedication and commitment to the sport, over a considerable number of years.
“Darren’s sons Connor and Tyrone were playing at Royal Portrush at the weekend, and like everyone else, were glued to the television screens as the excitement and drama of the last day’s play unfolded. Darren must be one of the most popular winners of the British Open in many years and it is an achievement well earned and very much deserved.
“Fellow major winners Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy have been joined by Darren in a remarkable hat-trick for Northern Ireland this year. As Rory McIlroy had tweeted: ‘Northern Ireland, the golfing capital of the world’.
“Our golf courses in the borough are already very important attractions drawing visitors from all over the world with Portrush being the jewel. This new accolade for Northern Ireland will lift the Province to a new level of renowned fame, and with Darren’s links to Royal Portrush and as a resident of the Borough, this is a tremendous boost to the area.”
East Londonderry MLA, David McClarty, said he was glued, like many others, to television coverage of Clarke’s “phenomenal” victory at Sandwich.
“Darren epitomises the “never say die” attitude. Despite huge setbacks in his life, he has come storming back to achieve what has to be the ultimate success for any golfer – The Open.
“His determination along with his skill and indeed his mental attitude are an inspiration to all of us. Well done, Darren, you have brought great credit to Portrush, to Northern Ireland, to yourself but chiefly to the family and friends who have supported you through the most trying times in your life.
“Let’s now start the campaign to ensure that The Open returns to Royal Portrush.”
Coleraine Alliance councillor, Barney Fitzpatrick added: “This was a magnificent achievement and a very well deserved win. Darren is an extremely popular person. He is very highly regarded across the golfing world and I am so happy for him.
“This has been an exciting time for golf in Northern Ireland and we are making excellent headlines thanks to the achievements of a number of our golfers. All deserve credit and I hope they will help us grow our tourism industry!”