Grassroots feel Harrington effect

ALL over Ireland this week, there will be youngsters begging lifts to the nearest golf course in the hope of emulating Pádraig Harrington, and the British Open champion’s own alma mater in Stackstown will be among the busiest hives of activity.

Having celebrated their most famous son’s success the night before, club members had little time to nurse any sore heads, with hundreds of children converging on the south Dublin course for the annual TileStyle tournament.

Harrington was aged 11 when he played on the team that won the competition in its first year, but his success has reverberated far beyond Stackstown.

The Paddy Harrington Day at the club has been used to raise funds for aspiring young pro golfers in recent years while the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarship is now up and running at NUI Maynooth.

The two-time Open winner has been just as conspicuous in his dealings with the Golfing Union of Ireland, whom he helped when establishing their academy at Carton House.

“I would say Pádraig’s wins have done a lot for Irish golf,” said the GUI’s Albert Lee. “The Irish team have just won the European Team Championship for the second successive year against 20 other European countries.

“Our panel had a day two years ago with Pádraig in Carton where they sat for four hours listening to him and watching him. He told them what the professional game meant when he left the amateur scene. He explained what they could expect, that it wasn’t easy and it could be a lonely life. He explained the advantages and disadvantages of attending colleges in America, where a lot of them have gone.”

Harrington was just as accommodating last January when he was the guest of honour at the GUI’s inaugural Champions Dinner.

Four hundred people attended at Carton House and the event proved so popular, thanks in no small part to Harrington, that they are organising another such evening early next year.

“He met every one of the champions and had a word with them. He spent four hours talking that night. I don’t know if he got to eat anything but he certainly gave of himself. He is a really generous guy.

“It would be very hard to assess what he has done for Irish golf. He is so down-to-earth. Any young guy could approach Pádraig in the morning seeking advice and get it.

“He has certainly put an awful lot back into Irish golf as far as the GUI are concerned. He helped us setting up our academy in Carton and has always been so generous with his time.”

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