‘We’ve had an amazing run’

HE was Andrew Chandler’s first client and in winning The British Open, Darren Clarke has delivered the third leg of what would be a remarkable “Chubby Slam” for the founder of International Sports Management.

Clarke’s win at Royal St George’s gave Chubby Chandler the first three majors of 2011, following fellow ISM clients Charl Schwartzel at The Masters and Rory McIlroy at the US Open.

The victory also made it consecutive Open victories for the former European Tour golfer, whose first major as a manager came with Louis Oosthuizen’s win 12 months ago.

“We’ve had an amazing run but I don’t think that’s a coincidence because I think they feed off each other,” Chandler said. “They eat together, they travel together and they play practice rounds together. Darren played with Lee (Westwood) on Tuesday and Rory on Wednesday and I think that was a sign, playing with them, that he realised that his game was up to it.”

The pair have been through some tremendous ups and downs in their 21 years together, not least when the Dungannon golfer lost his wife Heather to cancer in 2006. The Ryder Cup victory at The K Club came just weeks later but there followed some pretty poor performances in tournament play and he began to slide down the world rankings.

So for Clarke and Chandler alike, victory on Sunday was an emotional moment.

“It’s just been such a long ride that this is different,” the manager said. “There was joy when Louis did it and when Charl and Rory did it. But this is a different feeling.

“He has worked very, very hard for this. It’s been a long road. We’ve had some dark phone calls. He gets down if he’s had a bad day. There were a lot of times when you’d take a phone call and you just knew that it wasn’t a very good phone call. He lost about five or six years of his career.”

Chandler acknowledged, though, that Clarke had helped build the foundations of ISM’s success form the moment they agreed to work together in a Dublin office in August 1990.

“I didn’t take any plunge. He just asked me (to be his agent). He wanted to play golf and I’d do everything else and I said ‘yes’.

“He said ‘what about a contract?’ and I said ‘well, Arnold Palmer and Mark McCormack didn’t have a contract, they just shook hands’. “He said: ‘right, that’s what we’ll do’.

“He shaped our company, because that’s what we’ve done with everybody. And he mentors so many kids of ours.

“He went to Malaysia with Chris Wood 15 months ago and it was the first time Chris Wood was on a promotional fee there so he had to go to a dinner on the Tuesday night and he came down injeans and a shirt and not had a shave and Darren sent him back up and said ‘that’s not how ISM does things, go and have a shave’.

“That’s brilliant. It means our youngsters learn some great habits. It’s not an accident they’re good golf pros because they see Lee and Darren do it. They’ve got good examples to follow.”

Clarke helped deliver McIlroy to Chandler, too, through his golf foundation. And now both are major champions, Chandler has to maximise their soaring marketability.

“They are different people, different markets. Darren’s already a brand, he is massively popular all over the world, so I think my job for him is going to be very easy. We are able to say ‘yes’ more times to Darren than we will be to Rory.

“Rory, we’ve got to look after, he is so young you could burn him out, whereas Darren is burned out a few times already ... he has really missed the last two years playing on the same schedule as Rory, Lee, G-Mac, those sort of people, he’s been going to play in Morocco, Sicily, etc and suddenly his schedule is going to be very similar to all the other guys. “He will feel he is back to where he should be.’’

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