Padraig Harrington, 3 time Major Champion, Ryder Cup Captain and Team Man.
Padraig Harrington Team Man
Padraig Harrington, the three-time Major Champion has always been a fabulous team player. I know this first hand, as I have been witness to his career from his first days competing in a team event called the "Tylestyle Trophy" as a teenager playing at Stackstown GC. He progressed quickly from the kid's stuff to playing Barton Shield golf for the club at 15 years of age with me as his esteemed partner. Even then, he was terrific to be around as he developed a steely grit from playing with golfers much older than him, and for a short time much better than him. He was always the underdog in the family matches until he rapidly progressed at 15 years of age from a five handicap to scratch within the year. He didn't show any mercy after that and made up for lost time by thumping us regularly. To understand where this team mentality came from, you only have to look at his upbringing, our father was sports mad and had been a very successful Gaelige football player. He had lost in two All Ireland finals playing for his beloved Cork team but it was his attitude to defeat that left an indelible mark on all of us. He never looked at defeat as a failure, he was a very positive man and this has helped shape Padraig into the golfer he is today. Surrounded by four older brothers, he was exposed to team sport from an early age and played a variety of sports up to the day he achieved a scratch handicap. Even though golf can be a solitary sport, with many hours required on the practice ground to reach a professional level, it was this early exposure to team events that have shaped his attitude to camaraderie in the face of a common enemy.
As he progressed to playing for Ireland as an amateur, he again had a very positive attitude to playing foursomes and fourball matches and finished his amateur career with an 80 to 90% strike rate playing for Ireland. This again translated to his three Walker Cup appearances in which I caddied for him (after traveling all the way to the 1993 match in Interlachen, they had local caddies arranged but the journey wasn't wasted as I caddied for him in the US amateur at Champions GC in Texas.) He was extremely good at forming partnerships with other golfers as witnessed by his resounding victory with Jody Fanagan against Tiger Woods and John Harris at the 1995 match at Royal Porthcawl. I caddied that day and in all the times I was on the bag in team events, he never did anything to make his partner uncomfortable. He was very determined and focused and this played well in the team environment.
Fast forward to his professional career and the same pathway emerges. It's a progression, and you don't have to delve too deeply to see it as clear as day. He has always been good at partnering someone, forming a bond, identifying the enemy and formulating a plan to crush them. He genuinely hates losing, my father could accept it, Padraig and his eldest brother can't abide by it. Since turning professional he has played in the 1997 World Cup of Golf with Paul McGinley winning for only the second time since 1958 when two unknowns won the trophy for Ireland (Harry Bradshaw & Christy O Connor Snr!). He then cut his teeth at the Seve Trophy which was a great breeding ground for Ryder Cup life, he has made six appearances at the Ryder Cup, winning four times, and has also undertaken three vice-captaincy roles. So, plenty of experience in the hustle and bustle of a Ryder Cup where the best-laid plans can change in an instant. For example, the afternoon draw has to be finalized as the morning matches are still in progress. A pairing that is losing (and are dropped for the afternoon) suddenly turn it around and win in grand style. A rock and a hard place! And of course, golf is an individual sport, every player (naturally) thinks he should play all five matches whereas in an ideal world they would be rested for at least one match. Throw in an Olympics where he partnered Seamus Power and it's easy to see how he has been chosen to lead a team in a predominately individual sport.
Win or bust!
The word team will determine the winner of this match in Whistling Straights. Even though world rankings might suggest the Americans should win, it is that bonding of players learned from a young age for Padraig that will get his team over the line. That 1% that can't be defined is the secret sauce that makes winning teams, who to put a comforting arm around, who to scold? It's that fine line that gets players on a team believing that they are all in it together and ultimately hating to lose as much as their Captain always does. I have a sneaking suspicion that Padraig will relish this match, he is where he likes to be, considered the underdog, abandoned on foreign soil with little chance of success. Padraig never turns up to participate, it's always win or bust.
Last Word -
It's something I did think long and hard about, It's possibly easier to be Ryder Cup captain at home, but I realise it was good timing in my career and probably the best chance for the team in an international setting, going to the US having me as captain at this time. Then it really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career on the line. It's a different element to your career and we know a successful captain is great and a losing captain - it's his fault. I'm putting something on the line going out there.
And so the journey begins, twenty months from now, another Ryder Cup will take place at Whistling Straits. If you had to pick a venue to try and beat the Americans on home soil, this would probably be it. It is as close to a European links style course as you can get, Padraig and his team will have a huge Irish support from nearby Chicago and finally, the reality is, the American Captain won't relish facing the ultimate grinder who will leave no stone unturned to try and find that 1% that will turn the match in Europes favour. Can't wait!
You can track and support Padraigs progress over the next twenty months on our dedicated Ryder Cup page here, and you can also subscibe to our free monthly digital magazine here with a chance to win a dozen Pro V1's each & every month!
Hope you all are looking forward to productive golfing year in 2019.
Thanks for reading, it is appreciated!
Tadhg Harrington is a full time, professional golf instructor, and owner of the Harrington Golf Academy, based in Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of the Titleist Performance Institute and Setanta College. He is the eldest brother of three-time time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington.
He succeeds, employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service, teaching above the noise, the quick tips, and the latest fads and is truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
The Harrington Golf Academy provides long term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. Tadhg teaches the long game at Drynam Park Golf Centre and short game at Roganstown GC. His business partner, Ex European Tour Player, Rebecca Codd, teaches full time at Clarity House on the Belgard Road in Tallaght!