He turned 16 just three weeks ago but he’s already a towering six-footer, playing out of Royal Portrush and clearly not fazed by playing in front of crowds.
In 2012, he famously teed it up with his famous father in the Irish Open Pro-Am at Royal Portrush when he was a 12 handicapper and made eight pars and two birdies to take the money.
This year, he’s played in two Ulster Branch competitions, finishing 33rd in the Ulster Schools Junior Championship at Shandon Park in June before going on to shoot rounds of 82 and 84 in last month’s Ulster Boys Open Championship at Clandeboye. That wasn’t quite good enough to make the cut but the five-handicapper has other interests outside the game of golf, and appears to have loved the move back to Portrush with his father and younger brother Conor. It was a decision Clarke Snr made following the death of his first wife Heather in 2006 and part of the secret of his 2011 Open Championship success.
“I moved back home from London to Portrush to take my boys out of boarding school so I could see them a little bit more,” Clarke said at the time. “I didn’t want them to grow up and me not see them.”
Meanwhile Michael Hoey is targeting a top three finish at least as he returns to the Northern Ireland Open Challenge following the disappointment of missing the cut at last year’s inaugural event.
The five-time European Tour winner, a graduate of the European Challenge Tour, is the official tournament ambassador for the event taking place on the pristine greens of Galgorm Castle this week.
The event made a huge impression last year, attracting more than 20,000 people, while this year more than 32,000 have registered for tickets, which are free of charge for the first time. As one of the most successful Northern Irish players in recent history, Hoey was a main attraction for the home crowds last year but he unfortunately missed the halfway cut as Dutchman Daan Huizing went on to win the tournament, courtesy of a play-off victory over former Ryder Cup player, Oliver Wilson.
“It was a great event last year and I was just disappointed not to make the cut but hopefully I can put that right this year. I feel like my game is good at the moment, I played the course last Friday and on Monday and it’s in good shape. I think there was a lot of attention on me last year and I put myself under a bit too much pressure. I think I’ll just try and relax a little more this year.”