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Monday, August 14, 2006

Darren Clarke mourns passing of his wife Heather

***Click here for my piece on Clarke and the 2006 Ryder Cup***

Four news items today.

1. The golf world sends its sympathies as Heather Clarke, wife of popular European Tour player Darren Clarke passes after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 39.

Clarke had been a long time strong finisher in British Opens before bursting on the scene in America after drubbing Tiger Woods in the Finals of the 2000 Accenture Match Play Championship final match. At the time Clarke was so portly, popular sports analyst Jim Rome
famously quipped "He ate his lunch, Tiger's lunch and Tiger today."

Clarke's rotund physique, fondness for fine cigars and beer and seemingly unflappable demeanor when facing golf's most intimidating player made him an instant household name and "everyman" favorite.

Clarke rode the popularity to new heights. He dropped significant weight and became known for having a pint with fans and otherwise interacting genially with crowds at tournaments. He was a cornerstone of the 2004 Ryder Cup team that bent over backwards to win hearts and minds of American fansa t the sometimes-too-competitive Ryder Cuop matches at Oakland Hills.

Clarke further cemented his popularity with everyone in the golf industry with a show of gentlemanliness and responsibility rarely seen in today's win at all costs world. When a rain delay forced him off the golf course after driving into heavy rough, Clarke returned the next day to find his ball had been moved to a more favorable position. Where the night before had he played the shot, he would not have been able to reach the green and faced a sure bogey. The mysterious movement of the ball resulted in a clear path and easy lie - a sure four maybe a birdie three.

Clarke chipped out sideways anyway. His noble and sporting gesture enamored him throughout the golf world.

2. Car manufacturer Volvo confirmed it is to sponsor November's New Zealand Golf Open at Gulf Harbour.

Volvo will be a supporting sponsor of New Zealand's marquee golf tournament, after signing a three-year deal with New Zealand Golf. The deal also covers all other national and provincial events managed by New Zealand Golf over the next three years. Under the deal, Volvo will be the "official vehicle of New Zealand Golf".

It is the second major sponsorship announcement by golf officials within a week, after Blue Chip was announced as the naming rights holder to the New Zealand Open last Tuesday.

3. The Potomac Cup coverage of the vicious "Maryland vs. Virginia" amatuer grudge golf match begins Thursday night with the draw and parings and a look at the competitors.

4. Golf Observer, Tony Korologos Hooked on Golf and Cybergolf will also be covering the Flemmapalooza matches between the "Rockers" of Bowling For Soup (including yours truly) and Jim Engh's design team. "The buzz" is widely rampant that "The golf hammer of justice looms" over Jim Engh, but he seemed unfazed at last report, relaxing comfortably at his summer home in Idaho. (Read: Black Rock Golf Club!) After all, he lives in a good neighborhood.

The match wil be played Sunday August 27th at The Club at Pradera near Castle Rock, Colorado. Pradera (as she is known to her friends) was a finalist for Best New Private course last year and claimed two Jazzy Awards - one for best new private design and runner up for best golf hole (number 10)

Picture: Captain Jay Flemma and his lieutenants, Gary Wiseman (l) and Chris Burney (r) of Bowling For Soup celebrate a great round at We-ko-pa in Scottsadale and plan the impending "Invasion of Denver" against vastly superior forces.


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