Darren Clarke was back on the Ryder Cup radar again today when he received the PGA Recognition Award at The Professional Golfers’ Association’s annual fundraising lunch.
The Dungannon man, who collected the award at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, is the first Northern Irishman to receive the honour and joins an elite list of former recipients including Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Seve Ballesteros and 2012 Ryder Cup winning captain José María Olazábal.
The 44-year-old, who turned professional in 1990, achieved his boyhood dream in 2011 when he won the Open Championship at Royal St Georges, 18 years after clinching the first of his 22 worldwide wins in the 1993 Alfred Dunhill Open in Belgium.
Other notable achievements include winning the English Open three times, claiming the European Open in 2001 and becoming the second player after Tiger Woods to win two World Golf Championships.
Clarke has also illuminated the Ryder Cup since making the first of his five appearances in 1997. He has been on the winning team on four occasions, with the Northern Irishman producing an emotionally-driven display at The K Club, shortly after the loss of his wife Heather. Clarke was also a vice captain in 2010 and 2012.
Off the course, Clarke, who has two sons - Tyrone and Connor, has established the Darren Clarke Foundation and at the luncheon received a cheque for £25,000 from The PGA to help its work which supports junior golf in Ireland and raises funds for Breast Cancer Awareness. He is also involved with the Darren Clarke Golf School.
He was awarded an OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours lists for services to golf, which he collected from Buckingham Palace last month.
“This is a great honour to receive the PGA Recognition Award,” said Clarke. “It is always nice to recognised for the achievements in your career and this is certainly a very special award.”
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones said: “The PGA is delighted to be able to present Darren Clarke with the PGA Recognition Award for 2012.
“Darren is one of the world’s leading players and one that most club golfers can relate to and I suppose you could describe him as a local hero.
“I can’t think of anyone who didn’t support Darren on the day he finally secured his Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
“Darren portrays everything that is great about our game. He is still a great traditionalist and has never forgotten his roots and all those early lessons playing his golf in Northern Ireland.
“I know that he will savour the PGA award and the recognition of his fellow professionals.”