George O'Grady, Chief Executive of the European Tour, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Getty Images)
Major Champions Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy have been presented with European golf’s highest award of Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour, following in the recent footsteps of their Northern Irish compatriot and fellow Major winner Graeme McDowell.
The pair each received an Honorary Life Membership card from George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, at the Pro-Am on the eve of the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
The ceremony was conducted on the first tee at Killarney in the presence of Ireland’s Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, an enthusiastic golfer and a member of McIlroy’s Pro-Am team which also included the US Open Champion’s father, Gerry.
McIlroy triumphed in spectacular style at the US Open Championship in June before Clarke produced a links masterclass to win The Open Championship at Royal St George’s the following month, continuing a stunning spell for Northern Irish golf. Both famous trophies were on display on the first tee as the players were inducted into an exclusive club as Honorary Life Members of the Tour.
McDowell set the ball rolling 14 months ago when he won the US Open at Pebble Beach, and his victory inspired his countryman and close friend McIlroy to emulate him in the same event a year later at Congressional Country Club. The 22 year old won by an incredible eight shots to become the second youngest European Major Champion in history, and he broke numerous records with his low scoring en route to lifting the trophy.
A month later, 42 year old Clarke rolled back the years with a vintage display of links golf in, at times, testing weather conditions to hold off the challenges of Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson and claim his first Major.
O’Grady said: “It is a privilege to honour Rory and Darren with the highest award our Tour can bestow, and both fully deserve it after their marvellous achievements, which have given all of us at The European Tour such pride and pleasure.
“Rory’s victory in the US Open was the complete performance and remarkable for someone so young, while Darren’s win at his 20th attempt at Royal St George’s only a month later was simply thrilling.
Both players are strong supporters of The European Tour and we are delighted to witness this truly magnificent period for golf in Northern Ireland.”
Clarke and McIlroy will contest the €1.5 million Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland this week, as will three more Major Champions in McDowell, Irishman Padraig Harrington and Michael Campbell of New Zealand.