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Sharing Umbrellas: Darren Clarke Wins The Open Championship

July 17, 2011


They say that winning a first major changes everything, and if that's true, then nothing told the story of how Darren Clarke's life is about to change more than a camera shot not of the golf course, or his swing, but of the sky. A line went straight down the middle of the camera's eye--a threshold of cloud--and our common practice of making sports into life changing events wanted us to think that, with a win, Darren Clarke's golf career, and even his personal life, would swing from stormy gray into sunlit white. We wanted to see it, and we felt some measure of secondhand redemption in his victory; but I would like to ask Darren Clarke if he needed us to be there: Did he need this win to move through the storms of his life or had he already done so, privately, and we're just bringing out old ghosts and flogging them for the hell of it?


Five years ago, Darren Clarke and his two sons, Tyrone and Conor, buried his wife, Heather, who had lost her battle with breast cancer, and there were periods of both private and public mourning. He took the needed time off, and, as sports fans, with no personal connections to the Clarke family, we grieved for his loss when PGA players honored Heather Clarke at Medinah and when Darren Clarke wept into his caddy's shoulder at the Ryder Cup. We felt that pain, and we felt for him; so, naturally, when he returned into our consciousness this week, that is where the story naturally continued, except Darren Clarke wasn't a broken widow walking around Royal St. George's this week--he was full of equal parts grace and confidence.

"Squall on the Traverse"
These last four days, Darren Clarke, engaged to be remarried, was a young man with the world in his pocket. Balls that should have carried and bounced into pothole bunkers ricocheted onto the safe landings of fairway and light rough. Sideways rain halted at the calling of his name, on the first tee, and Sunday's squalls rarely found him in midswing or any other position that might have compromised an effort that was nothing short of a maestro waving a magical baton, over the white cliffs of Dover: Did you notice how the crowd's roars would fall silent at the lifting of his hand? The man had the weather, a sea of hearts, and the most frustrating of objects--a golf ball--at his command; and, of course, we've seen that before; and, of course, it wowed us; and, of course, we wanted it to mean so much more, because we always do, and this was our chance to diagnose 42-year-old Darren Clarke's personal tragedy over and done with. But, did Darren Clarke really need that validation, or did we?


In a sport that has become synonymous over the last decade with prodigies, tunnel vision, and dominance, it was like warm sunlight after a hard rain to see Darren Clarke hush a crowd with a finger, or a tip of the hat, rather than the barking of a caddy or thunderous expletives. It was good to see a man who, from a place of joy, has allowed himself to experience life--its brew, its smokes, fatherhood, love lost, and love found--be given four days to call his own. It felt good, to see Darren Clarke win the 2011 Open Championship, but whether it healed him, I don't know--he seemed to be doing alright before he ever kissed the silver cheek of a Claret Jug. And I doubt he needs us to tell him that he has always been steady as a ship.

But, if we did (and we did) I bet he would just smile and say, "You may be right," or anything else just as agreeable and full of warmth, because, despite how awkward it is to share someone's umbrella--rain or shine--, that's exactly what Darren Clarke did this week. And that human quality is not to be found in winning Major championships, but somewhere else entirely.

2 comments:

Langston said...

That photo of him laughing in the rain is all kinds of awesome, it pretty much reeks of a Mentos advertisement. Also, pretty stoked an old pro finally broke through. Even more-so that it was Darren Clarke, a golfer who has always had the game and finally put it all together for a masterful four days. It was a great Open, despite Phils full meltdown on the final nine.

July 17, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Teach said...

Yeah, I would have liked more drama down the stretch, but overall, it was a good tournament.

July 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

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