Harrington picks up honourary degree

Irish golfing star Padraig Harrington said he was “thrilled” to receive an honorary degree today.

Harrington, along with other iconic golfers Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson, received a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of St Andrews in Fife in recognition of their achievements in the sport.

Speaking after the honorary degree ceremony, Harrington said: “I’m thrilled with the honour from St Andrews University. I nearly came here to study in 1989 and it’s nice to come full circle, I suppose, and get this honorary doctorate here.

“It was made all the more special with the fact that Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson were there as well, so yeah – very, very important.

“I was reminded I wasn’t just getting it because I’ve won three majors. I was getting it because of my attitude to the game, which would have come a lot from my father, so very, very proud of that.”

The 38-year-old, who turned professional in 1995, won the Open Championship in 2007 at Carnoustie.

In 2008 he defended his Open Championship title at Royal Birkdale and then followed up by winning the US PGA Championship in the same year.

Harrington became the first European to retain the Open claret jug at Royal Birkdale since James Braid in 1906.

Speaking about the Open Championship, which starts in St Andrews on Thursday, he said: “I’m excited. I’m trying to taper down now and I’m ready to go. I played nine holes today but this afternoon was a welcome distraction.”

When asked about the Old Course, he said: “What’s not to like about it? You stand on the first tee, it’s one of the widest fairways in golf, yet you’re nervous, the hair stands up on the back of your neck.

“There are so many things that make it unique, the fact that the first and eighteenth finish basically in the town, the iconic buildings, the R&A house, Hamilton Hall, the Old Course Hotel, there’s just so many things.”

Americans Watson and Palmer amassed a number of British and US Open wins during their careers.

Watson said: “I’m very humbled, I think it’s very undeserving, I’m not a scholar, I’m just a golfer, I play golf for a living and I’ve had just a wonderful time in my life being able to play.

“This is the home of golf, and when people think about golf in the UK, and particularly Scotland, what do they think of? St Andrews is the first name on the list.

“It’s great to be back here and able to play my seventh championship but also to be in the company of Arnold and Padraig. It was a special event today.”

The degrees were presented by university chancellor Menzies Campbell.

University principal Louise Richardson said: “Individually and collectively, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington exemplify excellence, drive and achievement at the highest levels of professional sport.

“We are absolutely delighted that they have agreed to accept these honorary degrees at the home of golf on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship.”

Honorary degrees from the university were previously awarded to golfers Jack Nicklaus, Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo.

The honorary degree ceremony was held at the Younger Hall in St Andrews this afternoon.

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