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Highlights of the Golf Season
There were several highlights of another successful season for our golfers, but two stand out more than any other. Darren Clarke’s WGC event win in Akron, Ohio, was a magnificent triumph over all the world’s best players and he became only the second player after Tiger Woods to have two such titles on his CV.

After three years wondering if he would ever smell success again, Lee Westwood’s comeback win in Germany at the BMW was massive, but I thought his victory a month later in Scotland was even bigger. Lee’s dunhill links championship win came over not only the formidable force of Ernie Els, Darren and many other of the world’s greatest, but also over his own doubts about seaside golf and St.Andrews in particular. Never again will he stand on a seaside tee and believe that the test ahead of him was meant for somebody else to pass. I know how much it meant to Lee, not least because I spent the first three round with him as his pro-am partner. Thankfully I missed the cut. I say thankfully because Lee was then paired with Darren for the final round and that would have been one case of divided loyalties too far.

Those late summer and autumn successes were far removed from our first of the season. That came with Mark Foster’s debut Tour win in South Africa and it gave him an enormous confidence boost. So much so that he was encouraged to try for his US Tour card and although that particular venture proved fruitless, he did return from America with a fresh zest and desire to improve. Mark has decided to entrust his swing into the very capable hands of David Leadbetter, a move that South Africa’s Richard Sterne has also made in a bid to take the next step up. With Graeme McDowell having joined fellow Ulsterman Clarkey as a disciple of the teaching of Butch Harmon, I sense an urgency and commitment among our ranks that augurs well for next season.

I would also like to pay tribute to the huge success enjoyed by our cricketers which started early season and has continued through to the current tour of Sri Lanka. All-rounder Freddie Flintoff, new skipper Michael Vaughan and opener Marcus Trescothick particularly have enjoyed some dazzling times in the middle and long may it continue. Lee’s orange suit turned a few heads at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, but my own memory of that particular night was of meeting George Best and Jonny Wilkinson for the first time. To be in their company and that of many of Britain’s greatest ever sportsmen was an awesome experience.

Finally, I would like to wish every one of you all the best for the festive season and hope that your dreams come true in 2004. See you in the New Year - it’s going to be a good one.

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