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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 August 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Funeral for Ryder Cup star's wife
Darren Clarke was accompanied by his two sons
Darren Clarke was accompanied by his two sons
The funeral of Darren Clarke's wife, Heather, has taken place in Portrush, County Antrim.

The wife of the Irish Ryder Cup star lost her long battle with cancer on Sunday. The mother-of-two was 39.

Family, friends and members of the golfing community attended a service at Ballywillan Presbyterian Church.

Among the congregation were England cricketer Andrew Flintoff, golfer Paul McGinley and former Republic of Ireland footballer David O'Leary.

The family lived at Sunningdale, Berkshire.

The Rev Jim Frazer, who married the couple 10 years ago, said Heather was "a lovely girl and a lovely person, unpretentious, and without any guile at all".

He said Clarke "won the greatest trophy of his life" when he married her.

Mr Frazer, who also baptised the couple's boys Tyrone, eight and Conor, five, came out of retirement to take the funeral service.

Clarke paid tribute to his wife's "courage and bravery"
Clarke paid tribute to his wife's "courage and bravery"

"Over these years Heather faced the roller coaster of her illness with a quiet determination and a grace that was characteristic of all she did," the minister said.

"At the end, she was at peace and only last Sunday morning death came as a friend and took her and she was at rest."

He also praised Clarke, who quit competition to be with Heather as her illness worsened, for how he had dealt with such a devastating loss.

"We here today are only a tiny few of the many people around the world who felt so deeply for you as you bore this grief with a forbearance and dignity that touched all our hearts," the minister told mourners.

A lovely girl and a lovely person, unpretentious, and without any guile at all
Jim Frazer
Presbyterian minister

"We can never know, we can only imagine just how difficult it has been for all the family, but especially for Heather and for you Darren, in the glare of the publicity surrounding you.

"No-one appreciates this more than the professional golfing community, of which you were so much a part."

Heather passed away at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London in the early hours of Sunday.

Clarke has paid tribute to his wife's "courage and bravery" during her two-year ordeal.

A member of the last four European teams, he is 30th in the standings after missing several events to spend time with his family.

At the Open, he shot a first round of 69 but then missed the cut after an 82 and announced he would not be playing "for the foreseeable future" because of Heather's health.

Darren and Heather Clarke
Clarke's wife had been battling cancer since 2004

He now seems almost certain to miss next month's Ryder Cup at the K Club near Dublin.

The couple met in a nightclub in Portrush. They have two sons, Tyrone, eight, and Conor, five.

Heather is also survived by her mother Ann and brothers, Mark and Matthew.


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