“You should see their face and reaction when I say to them I am playing off 27,” the younger Harrington said.
The elder Harrington, 46, is delighted that his son asked him to play in the PNC Father-Son Challenge, which begins in earnest on Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Grande Lake Resort.
This will be Team Harrington’s debut in the 36-hole two-man team event. One of Patrick’s friends attended the competition as a spectator last year and asked Patrick why he wasn’t in the tournament, which pairs major championship winners with their sons. When Patrick inquired with his dad, the elder Harrington was thrilled and set the plan in motion.
“Pádraig came to me at the Open Championship and he said, ‘My son is ready,’ “ said Alastair Johnston, the IMG executive, who oversees the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
“The great thing also is that my 10-year old (Ciaran) has no interest in golf, but he’s now saying: ‘Why aren’t I playing this week?’ So, that will get him into it,” Pádraig said.
As for Patrick, he’s grown like a weed and already is as tall as his dad and as thin as a 1-iron. His passion is rugby, but the opportunity to play alongside his dad has ignited a new-found interest in golf.
“The great thing about Paddy is that he is motivated to compete this week, and while it will obviously be very difficult for a son to follow in his father’s footsteps into the same sport, he has got to be respected,” Harrington said. “When Paddy turns, say 30 years of age, and if he’s out playing in a corporate outing he is going to have, say 10 people, who will come out from the clubhouse just to see him tee-off. Paddy is now nine months further down the road because of this event than he would be in that goal.”
Patrick is best remembered in golf circles for barreling into the arms of his father on the 18th green before the 2007 Open Championship play-off with Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie. Patrick was three at the time, and at the trophy ceremony after his father became “Champion Golfer of the Year,” he famously held a stuffed animal of a ladybug in hand and asked of the Claret Jug: “Can we put ladybirds in it?”
“We can, indeed,” Pádraig said. “We’ll put ladybirds in it.”
adraig has sported a ladybug head cover on his driver ever since. Patrick has a matching one to boot. His Wilson irons, the brand his father endorses, have yet to be released.
On Saturday, he’ll be paired alongside Greg Norman, the man Patrick’s dad tracked down to defend his title successfully at the 2008 Open Championship. Patrick also will rub elbows at dinner functions and on the practice tee with the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo. Patrick has been practicing feverishly for his debut under the bright lights of television cameras and a crowd of golf fans that want to see if his game resembles that of his dad.
“I have been helping him a lot, but then I have to admit there has been a bit of panic the last few weeks just to get him ready,” Pádraig said.
The three-time major winner took up golf at age nine, and by Patrick’s age he was down to a low single-digit handicap. “When I was 14, I would have been cleaning my golf clubs on either a Friday night or a Saturday night getting ready to play golf the next day,” Pádraig said.
“When I got down to a 5 handicap I started winning. I was beating everybody in my club when I was 14, but then I was always a gradual progression in golf.”
The goal this week for Team Harrington is simple: To play in this event next year.
“What I don’t want to hear him saying is, ‘No, I don’t want to ever to do that again,’” Pádraig said.
“Well, he automatically qualifies if he wins,” Johnston said.
Patrick proved he’s a chip off the old block in at least one respect — he can deliver a good quote.
Speaking about his chances this week, he said, “If we win, I’ll be saying I carried him and if we lose, it will be all his fault!”