THERE are two ways of going about the business of riding and racing motorcycles – or partaking in any sport for that matter. The first, if you are looking to take it seriously, in it to win it and all that, is to go the totally professional route, the second is to go the beer and pies route (much preferred by me, as my total lack of sporting success shows) where the aim is maximum enjoyment with minimal input. Not as easy as you might think!

Being totally professional requires lots of dedication and discipline and if you have these traits in abundance you are well on your way. You can run and cross-train and sweat in the gym and spend your winters in Florida or California and train some more (in theory at least). You can lay off the pies and beer while consuming spaghetti till it comes out of your ears and glug on energy drinks till you can drink no more. Then, given the kind of natural skill level of a David Thorpe you could become a three (or four) times World Champion.

Obviously there really aren’t too many David Thorpe’s in the world but given even a modicum of skill, if you put enough effort in you should be able to earn some kind of crust out of your sport.

But bear in mind that in any starting line-up of pros someone will win and equally, someone will finish last. And even that tail-end Charlie will also be following the totally professional creed, just like you.

There is of course a third way, one which quite frankly I thought had died out around 20-years ago, maybe more. This requires a sportsman of such skill that he can (apparently) get by on that alone and these guys always have and always will fascinate me.

So what’s brought this on? Well, on Sunday evening, slumped in front of the telly having spent the day travelling, bus, airport, plane, car etc with all the time-consuming queueing and being messed around by jobsworths that that entails, I was watching the Open Golf from somewhere in Kent. Golf really isn’t my thing but the remote was out of reach, so there it was.

And in amongst all the tall, athletic, super-fit, totally professional young guns whose sporting careers were clearly all mapped out on computer generated spread-sheets, along with every microscopic aspect of their waking (and probably sleeping) totally professional lives, strolled a portly middle-aged chap.

This amiable-looking gent, looking as rumpled as a well-worn Barbour jacket, appeared, admittedly to my untutored eye, to have somehow wandered onto the course, bagged a late entry and was ambling along, pausing occasionally to light a gasper, before taking an intelligent swipe at his ball after taking barely a glance at the pin.

No elaborate addressing of the ball, no painstaking ritual of waggling the club, or his backside, hitching up his trousers or even a twitch of his nose. The chap strolling round without an apparent care in the world was Darren Clarke – and he only won the Open by a canter. Well done him!

…and having won the Open he then, according to the report I read, went on a night-long bender.

Call me old-fashioned – but that’s my kind of sportsman!

Now, I don’t actually advise anyone to follow the 2011 Open winner’s passion for taking a crafty puff behind the groundsman’s hut – although I do admire him for lighting-up in full view of the cameras, cocking a smokey snook at the oh-so-smug ‘Elf an’ Safety’ brigade – or for that matter to go on a night-long gargle, but I do find it heart-warming that a ‘normal’ bloke can still win a world class event without his life becoming an all-consuming shrine to computer-controlled living. Thank god, the techies haven’t quite taken over the world!

If I was looking for a similar figure in the off-road world I reckon I’d have to go back a fair few years for something approaching an equivalent to Darren Clarke.

Top place in MX would have to go to Joel Robert, the legendary Belgian who remains my favourite motocross rider of all time. There will be those out there who would very likely chuck-in the name Graham Noyce or Jeremy McGrath for riders who defied convention – and I wouldn’t argue with them!

If you want a trials rider who defied the accepted odds I’d go with Martin Lampkin. You wouldn’t have caught the first ever World Trials Champion within a considerable distance of a gym or training programme although interestingly you could have often caught him on the golf course. I’ll bet Martin was urging Clarke on to that epic win on Sunday afternoon!

For the majority of would-be successful sportsmen or women, the totally professional route is of course the only way to go.

Ultimately that’s how you get to be Tiger Woods, Roger Federer or Stefan Everts. Or, on a more realistic level, a centre champion, or a National winner or a factory rider. And out of all the totally professional devotees, odd individuals even get to be a world champ.

I truly salute all you out there who commit to a lifetime of unyielding devotion and reap the ultimate reward.

But, perhaps wrongly, not half as much as admire the individual who appears to reach the top without apparent effort, Darren Clarke style.

Now that really does take some doing…