Two Southport PGA professionals watched Darren Clarke’s Open heroics with greater interest than most. Howard Bennett and Phil Kenyon have worked closely with the Ulsterman at various points over his career.
Bennett, a PGA Master Professional attached to Formby Hall Golf Resort, helped nurture the 42-year-old’s prodigious talent during his 15-year tenure as national coach to the Golfing Union of Ireland while coach Kenyon has been helping Clarke with his putting in the last two years.
For Bennett, who also coached Major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, having witnessed Clarke’s skill as a teenager, it was a delight to see him match his peers and scale the heights more than 20 years later.
“Darren was always immensely talented, and like Rory McIlroy, you knew they were going to do well but didn’t know how well,” said Bennett. “In the case of Padraig he, as he admits, had to work like hell but Darren, like Rory, was given great gifts for the game of golf.
“Things came easy to Darren but he was a great athlete and a good rugby player. Even at 17 and 18, standing on the tee he had a great presence and anybody facing him knew they were in for a tough ride.
“A lot has been said and written about him being a people’s champion and they associate with them because he’s a regular guy who likes a drink and a smoke. He worked very hard at his game but also enjoyed life and that was his personality and it helped get the best out of himself.
“Like a lot of young guys his head was not always on as it should have been and I used to have a saying – let your attitude control your golf rather than golf control your attitude – which is what Ken Brown said to him at Royal St George’s and he did that perfectly.”
Meanwhile watching Clarke’s every stroke, particularly on the greens, was Kenyon who heads up the Harold Swash International Putting School at the Formby Hall Golf Resort
“We have just been trying to make his putting stroke a bit more simple for him, doing a lot of set-up and pace work and also simplifying the stroke in terms of the mechanics,” said Kenyon who is based at Formby Hall Golf Resort.
“Darren is a good putter but has been a bit streaky over the years so we have worked to make him a bit more consistent.
“He’s done a lot of hard work over the years and it was great to see him get his just rewards by lifting the Claret Jug. The way he performed under pressure should give him a lot of confidence.”
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