18/07/2011

Darren Clarke Swings Open Victory

NI golfer, Darren Clarke has won his first major title with a three-shot victory at Royal St George's and became just the second Northern Ireland player to win the Open - after Fred Daly in 1947.

It follows the successive US Open wins of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell over the last year and marks NI's third major championship accolade.

The Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson said there was "no more deserving or popular a winner than Darren".

"I along with all the people of Northern Ireland would like to congratulate him on becoming the Open champion," he said.

"Scotland may be the spiritual home of golf but Northern Ireland is unquestionably home to the world's best golfers.

"I once again would say to the golfing world to come to Northern Ireland to see for themselves why we are the home of golf's champions."

Also commenting, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that over the four days of the tournament, Clarke had "conducted himself with a grace and quiet determination that is nothing short of outstanding".

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone Alliance Representative Hannah Su has praised golfer Darren Clarke on his Open victory at Royal St George's in Sandwich.

Hannah Su said: "I want to praise Darren on his amazing victory. This was a magnificent achievement and a very well deserved win. Darren is an extremely popular person, 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.

"These successes are very significant and I hope they will help us grow our tourism industry with all the attention that Northern Ireland golf has garnered," she said.

Also commenting, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has congratulated Darren Clarke on his magnificent victory in the British Open golf tournament.

After weeks of sectarian trouble making the headlines across the world for all the wrong reasons, he said: "What an advert for [his home golf club] Portrush.

"Darren's victory has made Northern Ireland the golf capital of the world!

"A trio of the world's best and highest achievers in golf are all from here and Northern Ireland sport and tourism should benefit from such a result.

"Well done Darren," the MP concluded.

Party colleague and Tourism Minister Arlene Foster has also congratulated golfer Darren Clarke on winning the Open Championship.

"Throughout his career, Darren has been an excellent ambassador for Northern Ireland and his success at the 140th Open is a well-deserved reward for years of hard work and dedication to his sport.

"During interviews that were broadcast all over the world this week, Darren has talked about how playing at Royal Portrush has been the perfect preparation for links golf at the very top level - and he is right.

"Our golf courses are among the best in the world and our three Major winners - Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and now Darren Clarke, have proven that Northern Ireland is the top golfing destination.

"I am determined that we will continue to showcase our golf tourism offering all over the world, because we have so much to be proud of," she said.

Ulster Unionist Leader Tom Elliott has hailed Darren Clarke’s victory in The Open at the Royal St George's course in Sandwich, Kent, as a fitting reward for more than 20 years' hard work.

"His victory at The Open was the culmination of a lifetime's work and whilst the whole of Northern Ireland will celebrate this victory, as a Fermanagh & South Tyrone representative, I know that the celebrations in Darren’s hometown of Dungannon will be particularly enthusiastic.

"It was clear from the reaction of the crowds at the course in Kent that Darren is an extremely popular figure on the golf circuit and is held in high regard far beyond Northern Ireland.

"Following Graeme McDowell's success in last year's US Open and Rory McIlroy's triumph just a matter of weeks ago, it is clear that we are doing something right in terms of producing world-class golfers and it is great to see the eyes of the world focus on Northern Ireland for all the right reasons," he continued.

"To capitalise on these recent successes, it is imperative that we market our wonderful golf courses, such as, Royal Portrush, Royal County Down and, of course, the Lough Erne resort in my own constituency.

"In addition to the tourist boost from golf holidays, I also believe that we will never have a better chance of securing the return of The Open to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951."

Kenny Comments

Across the border, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also congratulated Darren Clarke following his victory: "Darren has shown great resilience in both his personal and golfing life, and the victory is a vindication of that resilience.

"Darren's victory further reinforces the status of Irish golf internationally, following on from the achievements in recent years of Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy and highlights Ireland is a home of golfing champions.

"I am hopeful that this run of success can lead to the Irish Open securing a major sponsor in the longer term showcasing Ireland as one of the world's foremost golfing destinations," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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