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Favorite moments from the past year

Darren Clarke
Getty Images

By JASON SOBEL

Call me a sentimental old fool, but I get a little weepy anytime someone hoists a Guinness and proposes a toast to prosperity. With that in mind, the tears of wistfulness were flowing nearly as much as the dark suds following this year’s Open Championship.

I don’t need to remind you what happened that week – but I will anyway. At the age of 42, Darren Clarke improbably romped through Royal St. George’s Golf Club, claiming the claret jug by three strokes, prompting a Ryder Cup-like celebration amongst his European Tour cronies. 

The fact that so many Guinness toasts were made in the afterglow of Clarke’s victory certainly doesn’t diminish the occasion’s likability in my eyes, but it was my favorite moment of the year for much more than the frothy beverages. 

This triumph was one for all the old pros who have spent a lifetime traversing the globe in the pursuit of perfection. It was one for every golfer who has struggled with his form and worked to regain it. It was one for the fans who have stuck with an old favorite through thick and thin. 

More than anything, though, this was a victory for anyone who has dealt with terrible grief in life. Yes, dealt with it, not overcome it.  

Five years ago, Clarke’s wife Heather passed away after a much-publicized bout with breast cancer. Darren was left to raise their two boys as a single parent and his golf took an expected downturn. Though he helped Europe to a Ryder Cup victory later that year, he was largely an afterthought when it came to individual events, especially major championships.  

Finally, though, he persevered and reached the pinnacle of his career. Anyone who knows the back story couldn’t have helped but smile at his good fortune that week. 

OK, so maybe those Guinness toast tears were the result of a different kind of sentimentality.


Erik Compton

By RANDALL MELL

A heartbeat.

It’s a wondrous phenomenon, a marvel of physical science that repeats itself an average of 60 to 90 times a minute in our chests.

Nobody’s more attuned to the miracle that’s so common to our lives than Erik Compton.

He made us all stop in wonder in June when we heard he won the Mexico Open on the Nationwide Tour.

What better moment did the year in golf offer than that?

If you weren’t moved by that news, maybe you should check your own heartbeat. You might not have one.

Tour pros everywhere should have been inspired.

Actually, we all should have been inspired.

If Compton can come back from two heart transplants to win a professional tournament, what is not possible in our own lives? What setbacks can't we overcome?

Compton connected us all to the wonder of a heartbeat and all the amazing possibilities it creates.

That’s one hell of a moment he gave us this past year.


Gerry and <a rel=

By REX HOGGARD

It was no easy task picking a preferred moment out of a year filled with memorable happenings. There was the traffic citation we couldn’t dodge at the Presidents Cup (who knew talking on a cell phone while driving in Australia is a federal offense?) and political unrest in Northern Ireland that we were able to sidestep.

The highlight of the year, however, was waiting behind the bar at Holywood Golf Club in early July. “Welcome,” Gerry McIlroy smiled widely as if we’d been invited.

McIlroy was less than a month removed from that emotional Sunday when he watched his only son, Rory, finish off a historic U.S. Open victory. Yet even with the brighter spotlight the older McIlroy relished the role of host, particularly at Holywood GC where he’d worked for years as a bartender.

McIlroy gave an impromptu tour of the clubhouse, introduced the interlopers to “Gabby,” the man who runs the club’s restaurant, and fondly recalled his days behind the bar at Holywood.

In fact, tending bar at Holywood was one of three jobs Gerry McIlroy juggled while Rory worked his way through the amateur ranks. When asked why he would subject himself to such a rigorous work schedule, McIlroy shrugged, “As long as he was making the effort why wouldn’t I?”

It was everything one needed to know about both McIlroys, and a moment you never forget.