Sometimes Good Things Happen to Nice People

Sitting in my den, pondering the impact of the looming debt ceiling stand-off, I am heartened by the victory of Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke in the British Open golf tournament (yes, I know they call it The Open, but I find that pretentious and confusing).

At 42, Clarke seemed no more than a quaint has-been when the tournament began. The spotlight was on the young athletes – Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood – and established stars like Phil Mickelson.

But the golfing gods had other ideas.

It was Clarke who tamed that monster of a links course in driving rain and wind so blustery that it sometimes moved the ball about on the greens.

It was Clarke who walked away on Sunday with the claret jug.

“It will be full of that Irish black stuff tonight,” he promised.

His remark surprised nobody. Darren Clarke has been known to take a drink – or two… or more.

To me he is so very, well, Irish.

During my time in England, whenever I met someone I really liked, he or she turned out to be Irish. They were not “uptight” or judgmental. They enjoyed a drink, and they were quick to bet a shilling or two on a soccer game or whatever. They were also quick to laugh and just as quick to argue.

I don’t know Darren Clarke. But I could tell a lot about him by watching Phil Mickelson’s reaction to his victory. Mickelson had just suffered one of his patented self-destructs, missing any number of short putts after staging a miraculous display on the final front nine. But he was smiling and hugging the guy who beat him, looking as happy as if he had won the jug himself.

And from what I’ve read, Clarke is the kind of guy anyone would want to win a major championship – and close to $1.5 million.

I remember when he lost his wife to breast cancer five years ago, how broken he was. Left to raise two young sons by himself, he rallied to fulfill his Ryder Cup obligation – and to do it with gallantry and guts.  After that he dropped out of sight for a while.

But he re-emerged recently, engaged to a former Miss Ireland and with new-found hope in his eyes.

It was his fiancee, Alison Campbell (with Clarke in photo above), who “put my life back on track,” he declared.

To romantics like me, it’s an irresistible love story.

And it shows that even when things seem darkest, the sun could come shining through the clouds at any moment.