She’s married to one of the most famous and successful golfers in the world, but there’s one thing Alison Clarke is keen to set the record straight on when it comes to husband Darren.
And that’s his cigar smoking habits.
“I read an interview that somebody did about him recently, and they said he was like the typically affable, cigar-smoking, Guinness-drinking, jovial guy,” she says.
“Now to put the record straight, I’ve only ever seen Darren smoke a cigar twice in our whole relationship!
Though he does have the odd cigarette!”
The Dungannon born man’s reputation as a sociable, fun-loving and friendly guy is one of the qualities his wife admits she loves about him.
“He’s great fun, he’s sociable, he’s great craic,” she continues.
“The other side to him is when he gets a bit frustrated about the way he plays, and he gets upset with himself. Because he is such a professional sportsman it upsets him when he doesn’t play well, and you’ve got to give him time in those cases just to come around. You’ve got to be there for him in the right way.”
She adds: “He is a perfectionist in every aspect of his life. He’s also very generous and kind, and he’s always so accommodating when people come up to him asking for pictures.”
Alison, who got married to Darren in April 2012 on the beach at Abaco in the Bahamas, where they also have a home, says that when he gets time off from his golfing commitments, the couple like nothing more than chilling at home and chatting over a glass of wine, or enjoying some “us time” at their sun-soaked holiday house.
“It’s very quiet; nothing happens, there is one restaurant, one beach bar and a golf club,” she says of the island they love to visit.
“The boys can fish as well. It’s paradise, and nobody can take pictures of you. It’s just bliss.”
Alison also enjoys a great relationship with Darren’s two sons, Tyrone, 17, and Conor, 15.
“They are absolutely brilliant boys, they are good fun,” she says.
“I spend a lot of time on my own with them. We have a great relationship and they’re very good to me.”
Her own sons Stuart and Philip are older, and have both left Northern Ireland to make their way in the world, Stuart, in San Francisco working for Invest NI, and Philip in London as a graduate trainee manager for Lidl.
She does herself accompany Darren to some of his golfing tournaments, and will be at the Ryder Cup as Lady Captain of the European team in Minnesota this autumn, but she insists that such expeditions are very much work for Darren, and not simply jollies.
“Going to golf tournaments is not like a holiday. People think I jet all over the world and swan about, it’s lot like that. He’s working, he’s such a perfectionist, so he’s always practising. It’s early nights and early mornings when he’s away. And he’s so committed to everything he does. At the minute he really is the busiest I’ve ever seen him with the Ryder Cup coming up.”
With their similar work ethic and Co Tyrone upbringings, it’s obvious that the pair are a match made in heaven, and Alison reveals that after their initial first date - the result of a set-up by Darren’s friend and fellow golfer Graeme McDowell - they gelled so well that the relationship moved forward quickly and naturally.
“We had been in contact first by text, and had quite a sarcastic, fun, relationship - plenty of banter.
“Then I was going over to Eamonn Holmes’ 50th party in Manchester one Saturday night, and Darren asked me to meet him in London the night before. That was where we had our first date, and the next night he came to the party with me.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“We just obviously felt the same about each other. To be honest, I was just drifting through my life, I wasn’t interested in any relationship, I’d been through previous relationships and just wanted to concentrate on my business and have fun. I wasn’t looking for anybody at the time.”