There are plenty of popular misconceptions about me and many revolve around drink. To listen to some you’d think I crawled home every night, but while I admit to a liking for the black stuff and fine red wine, I rarely imbibe more than I can handle, and it never interferes with my professional life.On the road, I can go for weeks without touching a drop and if I do go on a serious bender it is always well away from a tournament. People who think I’m a party guy who plays golf and then goes straight to the pub do not know the true Darren Christopher Clarke.
So what is the real me?
One of my biggest pluses is also one of my biggest negatives, in that my desire and determination, admirable qualities for the most part, sometimes get in the way of what I am trying to achieve. I want things so badly that although my attitude has driven me to the highest of highs, it has also taken me to the lowest of lows. And I find it very difficult to deal with the lows.
I have let my attitude get the better of me on many occasions. I know I shouldn’t have done, but I have. I get very angry with myself, and in those circumstances I am not a particularly nice person to be around. I rarely fall out with anybody other than myself, however. In all my years on the Tour, I haven’t really had a big bust-up with many people, although I once threatened to thump a major champion who had hit a ball way too close to my head.
I’ve always struggled to deal with failure and you have to deal with an awful lot of it. A golfer is only as good as his last result, unfortunately for me. I should be more relaxed. I should be happier and I’m not, because I crave success – not from a material point of view, not for recognition, but for myself. That hunger has been to the detriment of earlier relationships, including my relationship with Heather at times, because golf to me is all-consuming. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
I frequently ask myself, why am I doing this, why am I working away at this, why am I pushing myself to the limits, why am I doing it all over and over again? It’s driven me mad at times. There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Well, I’ve done all the right things – the practice, the gym, sports psychologists, coaches – over and over again, but the results rarely satisfy me.
And then there is the other Darren Christopher Clarke.
I’m a giver in a world of takers. I try to look after people who have helped me and I like to be very generous towards them. I never forget when people have been good to me and it’s fair to say I also never forget when anybody’s been bad. I’ve never actively sought a celebrity lifestyle. I’ve been materialistic because I’ve been in a position to afford the things I’ve dreamt of. I had pictures of Lamborghinis on my bedroom wall as I was growing up, and when I could afford one I bought one. I’ve been very good to myself, but I also take great pleasure in helping out my friends.
As Butch Harmon once said to me, ‘You don’t see any hearses pulling a safe’. Well, you’re definitely not going to see mine pulling one. Sometimes I’m generous to the point of stupidity, but I get great enjoyment from it. I’ve always done it and for nobody more than my family. I like to share a bit of happiness and that’s why I employ all my family.
My three main hobbies outside golf are cars, wine and fly fishing. I indulge in them way too much but I enjoy doing it. I work hard, so I play hard. What’s the point in working so hard if I can’t do that? Mind you, sometimes I’ve rewarded myself a little too much in comparison to what I’ve achieved and Chubby [Chandler] has had to rein me in. It was once said that I lived a major championship lifestyle without the major. To be honest, I probably got that from Chubby himself.
I’m not a celebrity golfer; it’s not me, just not my thing. It’s nice to get invited to one or two events now and again, and I do have some celebrity friends, but throughout my career I’ve tended to surround myself with what I would call regular, normal people.
I’ve done quite a few personality tests, including the Myers-Briggs, and those results indicate I’m an introvert, but people think I’m an extrovert. I am shy and will never go into a room first if there is an option. Yet that will never have come across, particularly in light of some of the outfits I’ve worn at tournaments.
One thing that has been a constant throughout my career and for most of my life is that when it comes to shopping and spending, I have few rivals. My excesses often have to be seen to be believed.
If I said I once bought 60 pairs of Calvin Klein underpants, would you believe me? Didn’t think so, but I did. Or 40 pairs of trousers on the same day from the same shop? Yes, I did. Or 30 belts? Yes, that’s me. I’ve had 15 Ferraris, three Lamborghinis and an assortment of Jags, Bentleys, Mercedes, BMWs and Porsches. The most cars I’ve ever had at once was seven and I’ll admit that was a little excessive. I’m more sensible now.
The lifestyle I’ve had, I dreamed about as a kid, even though there was nothing wrong with the modest lifestyle I had growing up. My dreams were big not small because I have always felt that if you don’t aim high enough, you will invariably come up short.
This may take some believing, but I’ve never known how much money I’ve had in the bank, although occasionally I’ve known how little there was when Chubby’s said, ‘For heaven’s sake, Darren, stop spending’.
My greatest extravagance was the private jet I owned with Lee [Westwood]. It cost us something like $12 million, with annual running costs of $2 million, and we had it for about 10 years. The running costs were ridiculous, but it was a great idea at the time. We were travelling a lot together because our itineraries were similar and it worked for us. But when Heather got sick, my schedule got out of sync with Lee’s, so when he used it, it cost him double and the same for me when I used it. We couldn’t split the bills any more and that’s when it stopped working, but there was always a nice buzz walking up the stairs to your own jet.
Looking back now, I know it was an extravagance, but that was when I was playing an awful lot of golf in Europe and America. Over the course of a year, it gave me an extra week with the kids and that was priceless.
Nowadays I’m just as happy going down to Belfast and getting on easyJet. I’m a lot more sensible than I used to be and some of that has been forced on me, because when Heather passed away I had to sit down and figure everything out. Thankfully, Alison has been wonderful for me in that respect. She’s a businesswoman who knows far more about the value of money than I do.
She’s helped me curb that foolish, excessive side. I did enjoy the high life for a while when I was in London, but circumstances changed and although London was the best place to be based for my golf, it wasn’t for my life. London and Portrush are chalk and cheese. London is a massive, wonderful city, full of the best things in life and all kinds of people and characters, whereas small-town Portrush has just a few of the nice things in life, but is full of all the best people.
Although I adore the house I have in the Bahamas, there is no place like home and that home is Portrush. When you come from Ulster, there’s always the question about whether you are British or Irish. I loved London and I’ve loved representing Ireland, but when people ask what I am, I’m just proud to say that I’m from Northern Ireland. It’s home.
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