Golfer Darren Clarke "won the greatest trophy of his life" when he married his wife Heather, mourners at her funeral were told yesterday.
The Rev Jim Frazer, who married the couple ten years ago, said Heather was "a lovely girl and a lovely person, unpretentious, and without any guile at all".
After a long and brave battle with breast cancer, her funeral service was held at Ballywillan Presbyterian Church near Portrush, the same church in which the couple were married.
Clarke, who had held his two young sons' hands as they walked sobbing behind their mother's coffin, was joined by hundreds of mourners at the church including England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff, fellow Irish golfer Paul McGinley, former Aston Villa football manager David O'Leary and Clarke's manager Chubby Chandler.
Wreaths sent by Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam, top Australia golfer Adam Scott and pop star Ronan Keating, whose mother died of breast cancer, were among the tributes placed on the hearse.
Mr Frazer, who also baptised the couple's boys Tyrone, aged eight and Conor, aged five, came out of retirement to take the funeral service.
He said: "That day in March 1996 when you married her here in this church, Darren, you really won the greatest trophy of your life. She was a lovely girl and a lovely person, unpretentious, and without any guile at all. She was full of character."
McGinley, who with his wife Ali, were close friends of the Clarkes as well as neighbours in Sunningdale, Berkshire, has threatened to wreck his chances of making this year's Ryder Cup team by pulling out of the USPGA championship to be at the funeral.
Clarke had urged all his professional colleagues to compete in the major event which started today in Illinois, stressing it was what Heather would have wanted.
But Mr Frazer revealed to mourners that a morning prayer service had been held for the family on the practice putting green before the tournament began.
He also praised Clarke for how he had dealt with such a devastating loss. Heather died on Sunday, aged 39.
"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 said. "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."
In a tender moment before going into the service, Clarke comforted young Conor, fixing his suit and ruffling his shock of blonde hair.
The service was held in Heather's home town and just a car drive away from some of the world's finest links courses where Clarke honed the game that has made him a multi-millionaire.
The couple's relationship had got off to the most inauspicious of starts when the young golfer put out a cigarette on the former hairdresser's handbag when they first met in a Portrush nightclub.
But both quickly developed a mutual devotion.
Amid the sorrow and grief shared by Heather's mother Ann and brothers Mark and Matthew there were also reminders of the ebullient character who charmed all she met.
Mr Frazer said: "Growing up with two brothers, she quickly learned how to handle men. She found it slightly more difficult handling Darren, however, but quickly decided that if he was going to travel the world's golf courses with his friends, she would travel the world's shops with hers.
"The result was, when registering her death, in typical Clarke fashion, I gather he put 'housewife/serial shopper'. She would have enjoyed that.
"His trouble was, that she found it easier to hide her outfits than he did his gadgets.
"But having said all that, she was in no way a compulsive shopper.
"They shared their interests as they shared their love, and greatly enjoyed their life together.
"So for Darren those words ring true today: 'do not be sad for what you've lost. Be glad for what you had'.