Surrey, England (SportsNetwork.com) - Darren Clarke was named European Ryder Cup captain for the 2016 matches on Wednesday.

The five-time Ryder Cupper becomes the first Northern Irishman to captain the European squad, which has won three consecutive Cups. Clarke was also a vice captain on two winning teams.

Clarke was the first captain chosen by a five-man selection panel that included the last three European Ryder Cup captains - Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie - as well as George O'Grady, the Chief Executive of the European Tour and David Howell, a European Tour tournament committee member.

"I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016. The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honor," Clarke said.

"I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year."

Clarke's final year as a competitor was in 2006 at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland. He played the event just six weeks after the death of his wife, Heather. In his emotional return, Clarke capped a 3-0 week by beating Zach Johnson, 3 & 2, in their singles match.

Thanks in part to Clarke's perfect week, the European team rolled to its second straight 18 1/2 - 9 1/2 victory. Clarke raised his record in the event to 10-7-3.

The 14-time European Tour winner, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 1997, was a vice captain under Montgomerie at Celtic Manor in 2010 and under Olazabal in 2012 at Medinah.

"We are delighted to announce that Darren has accepted the invitation from the panel to captain Europe at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National," said O'Grady. "Darren has an impressive Ryder Cup pedigree having featured five times as a player and twice as a vice captain, so he has a strong understanding of the attributes required to be a successful captain. He is also a popular figure among the players and has both the passion and knowledge to lead Europe in the quest for a record fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory."

Clarke's biggest victory came at the 2011 Open Championship. That stands as his last tour title.

The United States Ryder Cup committee is expected to name Davis Love III as its captain next week. Love was the captain of the team in 2012 when they lost 14 1/2 - 13 12/2.