Subscribe to RSS feed for News Contributing to cancer research is practical way of helping, says Padraig Harrington. (Photo: AP)
Contributing to cancer research is practical way of helping, says Padraig Harrington. (Photo: AP)

Harrington will play with a greater purpose this week

Playing in the PGA Championship was a difficult decision for Padraig Harrington in the wake of Heather Clarke's death. He plans to honor her memory by donating any prize money he earns at Medinah in her name to breast cancer research.

MEDINAH, Ill. (PA) -- Out of his love and respect for Darren and Heather Clarke, Padraig Harrington will donate all the prize money he wins in the PGA Championship to breast cancer research.

Heather Clarke died early on Sunday morning after a long battle with the illness, and Harrington heard about it as he was at the airport heading to the final major of the season.

"Donating my money makes me feel like I am doing something practical and I'd be delighted to hand over whatever," he said. "When you go to a funeral you can't be much help anyway. This is at least a practical way of helping.

"I think both Darren and Heather were exceptionally brave and so dignified about what they've gone through," added Harrington, whose own father died of cancer in July of 2005. "It's been terribly hard. Heather never once complained and they haven't got down. They just struggled on. Both Darren on the course and Darren and Heather off the course were an example to everybody that they were getting on with it. She put up a brave struggle.

"I think Darren's play on the course [he almost won the Irish and Scottish Opens this year] is only a reflection of Heather's attitude off the course -- that she wanted Darren to play," he said. "Obviously Darren was carrying all of that onto the golf course, all that baggage. He handled himself extremely well and, as I said, I think the way he was, was because Heather was so strong behind him."

Fellow Dubliner Paul McGinley, another good friend of the Clarkes, instantly decided he was staying at home to attend Thursday's funeral. Harrington and others close to the family like Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Thomas Bjorn decided to make the trip, Harrington said, because "Darren made it quite clear he felt the players should go and play and that made our decision a lot easier."

McDowell, like Heather Clarke from Portrush in Northern Ireland, admitted he wrestled with his conscience before deciding to following Clarke's advice.

"I was in Orlando last week when I heard. It was terrible news and we all feel for Darren and his family right now," he said. "My mum and dad are quite close to Darren's mum and dad, so I thought, 'Will I go back or will I not?' It was a tough one and I'm sure it was very tough on Lee too as this is a tournament he didn't want to miss."

Westwood was in the Bahamas when he was called.

"I spoke to Darren yesterday. He wants us to keep playing and I think it's what Heather would have wanted too in the same way that she wanted Darren to keep on playing while she was ill," said Westwood, who has partnered with Clarke in two Ryder Cups.

McGinley's decision to skip the PGA Championship puts his place in the European Ryder Cup race in jeopardy. But Harrington commented, "I still think he's going to make the team. I don't think there's going to be an issue there."

McGinley will return to action at next week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio, and the race for the European team ends in two weeks at the BMW International in Munich, Germany.

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