Padraig Harrington was born in Ballyroan, Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of five sons of Patrick and Breda Harrington. His father “Paddy” (1933-2005), a Garda played Gaelic Football for Cork in the 1950s and was a keen boxer and hurler. He played to a five handicap in golf.
The Ballyroan Parish is located in Rathfarnham on Dublin’s Southside and is the birthplace of two other touring professional golfers – Paul McGinley and Peter Lawrie. Harrington and McGinley attended the local secondary school Colaiste Eanna at the same time, but not in the same year/class, giving it the unique distinction of having produced two Ryder Cup golfers. After leaving school Padraig mixed amateur golf with studying Accountancy.
Padraig played in his first amateur tournament in 1987, the Connacht Boys Championship, where he got to the final but was beaten on the 22nd when he lost his golf ball. He also finished third in the Irish Boys Close Championship at the Grange Golf Club and it was this performance that earned him a place on the Irish Boys team to play in the Home Internationals at Kilmarnock Barassie Golf Club in Scotland. In the summer of 1988, he finished runner-up in the Irish Boys Championship at Birr Golf Club and won the Leinster Boys Championship at Royal Tara Golf Club with a score of 4 under par 284. The Home Internationals were played in August at Formby Golf Club in Southport where he won three out of the four matches.
He has always been extremely proud to play for Ireland. In total, Padraig teed it up 114 times for his country at all levels and had a final strike rate of 72 percent for all matches and 92 percent for all singles played.
Padraig moved up to the youth level in 1989 and finished third in both the Irish Youths and Connacht Championships. With a score of five under par, he finished second in the Leinster Youths Championship at Greystones Golf Club that same year. He won both his singles In the Boys Home Internationals and played on Great Britain and Ireland Boys team that beat Europe at Nairn Golf Club and won five out of six matches in the European Boys Team Championships played at Lyckopna Golf Club in Sweden.
When he played, he always turned in a card, no matter what the score. Paddy (his father) instilled in him the sense that if you want to be good at something, you had to put in the time’ says Kavanagh. As Paddy told Dermot Gilleece in the Irish Independent before his passing ‘Whether (Padraig) was playing Gaelic football, soccer or golf he had a brilliant temperament. Nothing seemed to faze him. And the more knocks he got, the more determined he would be to bounce back and succeed the next time”. Ask Harrington to name his most distinctive characteristic and he says without hesitation ‘determination’.
After a successful amateur career, including winning the Walker Cup with the Great Britain & Ireland team in 1995, Harrington turned professional in September of that year, joining the European Tour in 1996. Harrington came to professional golf at a relatively late age, having studied accounting and working in the business for a number of years.
His first victory came quickly, in the 1996 Peugeot Spanish Open, but for the next few years, the most remarkable thing about his career was the number of times he finished second in European Tour events without ever bettering that position, including four-second places in five events in late 1999. 1999 saw Padraig fulfill one of his career ambitions – representing Europe in the Ryder Cup. Padraig showed enormous resolve to finish in the second position in each of the last two qualifying tournaments to secure a spot on the team.
Padraig’s impressive win in his singles match against Mark O’Meara was one of the most courageous performances of the time. it came at a time when it looked as though his point would be the vital one that Europe needed to retain the cup. Padraig followed his Ryder Cup debut with second place in the Linde German Masters, losing in a playoff to Sergio Garcia. His tremendous form and numerous top 10 finishes saw him selected for the prestigious Cisco World Match Play where he was victorious over Carlos Franco and Ernie Els, only to lose in the semi-final to the eventual winner, Colin Montgomerie.
However in 2000, he discovered a winning touch, and he had at least one win on the European Tour each year from then up to 2004. The 2001 season was definitely one of Padraig’s best, he has finished in the top ten on the European Tour’s Order of Merit seven times, including second places in 2001 and 2002 and third places in 2003 and 2004 and eventually won the Order of Merit in 2006. In 2007, Harrington won the European Tour Golfer of the Year award.
Harrington’s 2006 European Order of Merit win came after a titanic battle with Paul Casey and David Howell, which was won on the last hole of the last event. Sergio Garcia bogeyed the 72nd hole in the season-ending Volvo Masters to give Harrington a share of second place which earned him enough money to leapfrog Paul Casey to 1st place on the Order of Merit.
From around 2000, Harrington appeared with increasing frequency in the U.S. at the majors and World Golf Championships events, and as a sponsor’s invitee. He won his first professional event in the U.S. at the Target World Challenge, a non-PGA Tour event hosted by Tiger Woods in 2002. In both 2003 and 2004, he was the runner-up in the Players Championship, and in the latter year, he won enough money on the PGA Tour as a non-member to earn an invitation to the end-of-season Tour Championship.
He took membership in the PGA Tour in 2005 and in March he won his first PGA Tour official money event at the Honda Classic, where he beat Vijay Singh and Joe Ogilvie in a sudden death playoff. In late June, Harrington snatched the Barclays Classic from Jim Furyk with a spectacular 65-foot eagle putt on the final hole for his second PGA Tour win. Two weeks later his father died from cancer, on the Monday night preceding the 2005 Open Championship, forcing Harrington’s withdrawal.
Harrington has spent a considerable amount of time both in the top ten of the Official World Golf Rankings (over 200 weeks between 2001 and 2008) and as the highest ranked European golfer, his best ranking being third, which he achieved following his second Open Championship victory. He has also played for Europe in five Ryder Cups; losing in 1999 and 2008, but winning in 2002, 2004, and 2006. He has also won the par-3 contest at Augusta National, held the day before The Masters in 2003 (tie) and 2004.
At the 2007 Open Championship, Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia in a four-hole playoff at Carnoustie, becoming the first Irishman to win The Open Championship in 60 years, and the first ever from the Republic of Ireland. Both players went into the playoff having shot a 7-under 277 for the championship. Harrington subsequently won by one stroke in the playoff.
A year later at the 2008 Open Championship, it was unclear if he would get a chance to defend his Open title at Royal Birkdale as eight days prior to the event he injured his wrist. But Harrington successfully defended his title, overcoming a 2-shot deficit to Greg Norman with a final round 69. He shot a four-under-par 32 on the back nine, which enabled him to pull away from Norman and Ian Poulter. His eagle on the par-5 17th all but sealed the tournament. He is the first European golfer since James Braid in 1906 to retain the Claret Jug. The win moved him from fourteenth to third in the world rankings, behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Just three weeks after winning the Open Championship, Harrington won the PGA Championship for his third major. Although at five over par after two rounds, he shot eight under par for the weekend, carding successive scores of 66 in the third and fourth rounds. His three under par 277 was two shots ahead of Sergio Garcia and Ben Curtis. Harrington became the first European to win the PGA Championship in 78 years (Tommy Armour in 1930), and the first winner from Ireland.
Aside from Tiger Woods, who has won consecutive majors three times (2000, 2002, and 2006), Harrington was the first golfer to win two majors in the same year since Mark O’Meara in 1998 and the first to win consecutive majors in the same year since Nick Price in 1994. Furthermore, aside from Woods, he is the first golfer to win three of six consecutive majors in 25 years, since Tom Watson accomplished the feat in 1983, something that only four other players – Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Lee Trevino had previously achieved since the modern “Grand Slam” of four majors began to be recognized in the 1950s.
This latest major win has secured Harrington’s position as the number one player in Europe, earning him the number one spot in the European Ryder Cup 2008 team under Nick Faldo.
Coaches – Harrington is coached by Bob Torrance, the father of former Ryder Cup captain Sam Torrance.
He “was the most dedicated man that was ever a member of this place (Stackstown)” (Tom Daly, president, 2007). They’ll recollect the January after he got his tour card and they arrived to see him on No. 16 (Terry McMahon – founding member). They’ll speak of his “total commitment” even at ages such as 12 (Michael Giltinan – founding member). They’ll tell you how nobody could putt the 12th one day, but he knew every millimeter enough to line up a putt for fellow junior member Caroline, his future wife, so she could sink an 18-footer (Mick Greville 1996 Club Captain).