Aspire Magazine Issue 1 - Page 80

HOOKED: Fishing for big permit tops Darren Clarke’s itinerary in Abaco. “Some of the best fishing in the world is here,” he says. “I’m out there on the bow of a boat every second I can be.” BAHAMIAN BLISS The Abaco Club on Winding Bay is the idyllic location from which Darren Clarke, captain of the 2016 European Ryder Cup team, always draws inspiration. WORDS BY CHRIS BERTRAM In the aristocratic homes of early 20th-century England, “cocktail hour” began at 5:30 p.m. Considered a socially acceptable time to imbibe prior to dining, it lasted an incongruous 90 minutes and proved a fertile time for deals to be lubricated as inhibitions were diluted. But the ruddy-cheeked men of Dungannon, a town just west of Belfast, don’t do cocktail hours. “Happy hours,” perhaps, when drinks in the pub are sold at half price to lure punters post-work and keep them on their bar stools longer than anticipated. There is, however, one son of Dungannon who has a preferred cocktail hour and place. A Seabreeze is usually Darren Clarke’s drink of choice at his long-time holiday home at The Abaco Club on Winding Bay, located on Great Abaco in the Bahamas’ Outer Islands, 186 miles east of West Palm Beach, and a setting far removed from his beloved Northern Ireland. Here, the cocktail hour starts, well, whenever anyone wants it to. When at his favored retreat on the edge of the 78 ISSUE ONE | ASPIRE Caribbean, Clarke, the British Open champion and European Ryder Cup captain, is often found on his perch of choice at The Abaco Club’s beach bar by 5 p.m. Certainly there are worse spots to unwind. Built out of stout slabs of wood weathered by salty sea and fierce sun, the bar’s final step leads to flawless white sand—the kind clever art editors Photoshop into travel brochures. Beyond the carpet of powdered sugar is the Caribbean, a spectrum of turquoise and light blue hues. On the horizon, the sun begins its insouciant, dreamy goodbye as Clarke takes delivery of his first Seabreeze from Theresa, who mixes her potent potions from the circular bar. It’s clear why Clarke enjoys it here, and why he’s stayed loyal to The Abaco Club since 2004. Today, he welcomes the renaissance the private club is enjoying under Southworth Development, which took ownership in 2014. The 47-year-old’s affection for Abaco is more than just sand and sea. What Clarke gets here is an escape. Yes, he’s the biggest name in town, and, yes, members will lean in for a chat from time to time. But they are not fan boys seeking a selfie or signature. If they are members, Clarke already knows them. If they are prospective members (one can visit three times before deciding to become a member), they are at Abaco for exactly the same reason as the Irishman: to unwind from a highstress job. “Ask me where I’d want to be for any 24 hours at any time of the year and it would be here,” says Clarke. “You’ve got everything here, a fantastic golf course, a new practice range, a beautiful beach and ocean, and the best saltwater fly fishing in the world. It ticks every box for me. It’s the place [where my family] and I can relax and reconnect with the things in life that matter most. I love sitting on our deck watching the sun go down over Winding Bay. It’s a magical place in so many ways and we come here as often as we can.” Clarke says his sons, Tyrone and Conor, have loved The Abaco Club since they were babies, and he married his second wife, Alison, on the white sand right outside the club’s 2.5-mile private beach. During this trip, Clarke was on his own, staying in his clifftop Abaco villa (guests can also stay in ASPIRE | ISSUE ONE 79