Darren Clarke, Ireland

Northern Irish professional golfer Darren Clarke has enjoyed numerous international tournament wins in a career spanning all the way back to 1990, the year he initially hit the scene as a professional.

Born in Dungannon in 1968, Clarke played golf from an early age as a junior member of Dungannon Golf Club, which was also attended by three more members of the PGA Tour - Alistair Cardwell, Barry Hamill and Gary Chambers.

He enjoyed his first full season on the European Tour in 1991, when he made the cut for that year's Open Championship before finishing in a tie for 64th place.
Following this, Clarke emerged as a force to be reckoned with and was placed 41st in the Order of Merit in 1992 after coming in second position at the Hondo Open - just three strokes behind Bernhard Langer.

Clarke is probably best known for his sensational performance at the 2011 Open Championship, when the then 42-year-old held off competition from U.S. heavyweights Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.

During the hotly contested tournament, held at Royal St George's, Clarke kept his nerve to clinch his first ever-major title with a final round of 70 that saw him finish on five-under-par and three shots ahead of his closest rivals.
With the victory, he became only the second Northern Irishman to win the Open after Fred Daly took the top spot in 2012.

“I've been very calm all week, I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get,” he commented after clinching the title. “I was very comfortable with my game this week.”

His personal life took a turn for the worse in 2006 after Heather - his wife of ten years and the mother of his two sons - lost her brave battle with breast cancer, but Clarke soldiered on to compete in the Ryder Cup and contributed largely to the European success.

Stating at the time, “The bottom line is I know that Heather would have wanted me playing there, but if I didn't feel I could have benefited the team I wouldn't have gone.”

Nominated for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 2011, Clarke's likeable character and natural ability have made him a favourite among fans of the sport.

In 2012 Clarke was awarded an OBE.

On February 18, 2015, Clarke was announced as the Ryder Cup captain for the 2016 European Team. A five-man selection panel including the 2014 captain, Paul McGinley unanimously voted the Northern Irishman to the post. Beating out Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn.

Career Wins: 

1993 – Alfred Dunhill Open
1996 - Linde German Masters
1998 - Benson & Hedges International Open
1998 – Volvo Masters
1999 – Compass Group English Open
2000 - WGC - Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship
2000 – Compass Group English Open
2001 - Dimension Data Pro-Am
2001 - Chunichi Crowns
2001 - Smurfit European Open
2002 – Compass Group English Open
2003 - WGC - NEC Invitational
2003 - Benmore Developments Northern Ireland Masters
2004 - Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiyeiho Masters
2005 - Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiyeiho Masters
2008 – BMW Asian Open
2008 – The KLM Open
2010 - JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am
2011 - Iberdrola Open
2011 – The Open Championship