Padraig Harrington’s beautiful mind led to World Golf Hall of Fame induction
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Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Farrell, Sandra Palmer, Beverly Hanson and remaining LPGA founders also will be inducted in 2024
Written by Jim McCabe @PGATOUR
Padraig Harrington: Greater Heights
Entrusted to unlock the idiosyncrasies that exist inside the minds of professional golfers, it was Dr. Bob Rotella who one day fashioned a most quizzical expression on his face.
“I just has the most fascinating conversation with Padraig Harrington,” Dr. Rotella said. “He told me he is constantly trying to come up with things to talk with the media about. He thinks they have a difficult job and wants to help them.”
Dr. Rotella shook his head and smiled. “There is no one quite like Padraig,” he added.
Chances are, an enormously long line of golf people who’ve crossed paths with the personable Irishman would agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Rotella and celebrate the news that was released today: Harrington, 51, has been named to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Harrington said it was “humbling . . . to be alongside people I put on a pedestal, forever.”
Harrington headlines a class that will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in June 2024. The ceremony will take place at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina, during the same week that the course hosts the U.S. Open. The other inductees are:
* Tom Weiskopf, whose 16-win PGA TOUR career was often overshadowed by his friend and fellow Ohioan, Jack Nicklaus. Weiskopf’s signature win was the 1973 Open Championship at Royal Troon, but after his playing days he had a distinguished career as a broadcaster and golf course designer. He died last year of pancreatic cancer at 79.
* Johnny Farrell, who defeated Bobby Jones in a 36-hole playoff for the 1928 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields, the most notable of his 22 PGA TOUR wins. He was a longtime club professional at Quaker Ridge and Baltusrol and died in 1988 at the age of 87.
* Sandra Palmer, who will turn 80 on March 10. Among her 19 LPGA victories were two majors – the 1972 Titleholders Championship and 1975 U.S. Women’s Open.
* Beverly Hanson, who won a U.S. Women’s Amateur and counted three majors (1955 LPGA Championship, 1956 Women’s Western Open, 1958 Titleholders) among her 17 LPGA triumphs.
* The remaining seven of the LPGA’s 13 co-founders – Alice Bauer, Bettye Danoff, Helen Detweiler, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Shirley Spork, and Sally Sessions. All seven are deceased and they’ll join six other co-founders who are already in the World Golf Hall of Fame – Patty Berg, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Louise Suggs, Babe Zaharias, Marilynn Smith, and Betty Jameson.
Harrington won three major championships in 2007 and 2008 (two Open Championships and the 2008 PGA), three more times on the PGA TOUR and 11 times on the DP World Tour, including his beloved Irish Open in 2007. He has a total of 36 worldwide wins, including last year’s U.S. Senior Open.
When he triumphed in a playoff over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007, Harrington became the first Irishman since Fred Daly six decades earlier to win the Open. A year later at Royal Birkdale, Harrington became the first player in 25 years to successfully defend the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year,” adding his name to a distinguished list of back-to-back winners that stretched from both Old and Young Tom Morris two centuries earlier to Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Peter Thomson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.
When he overcame a three-shot deficit with a final-round 66 at Oakland Hills to win his third major in his last six Grand Slam starts, the then-36-year-old Harrington was in rarefied air.
It's a far cry from what was predicted of the Irishman years earlier when he appeared to be a quality amateur, but hardly a “can’t miss” professional. In fact, running in contrast to today’s trend when elite amateurs play in one Walker Cup, then scurry off to the pro world, Harrington played three times in the biennial team amateur spectacle.
In 1991 and ’93, Harrington and his Great Britain & Ireland mates were beaten soundly by the U.S. teams (14-10 and 19-5) but in his third go-round there was brighter news for the youngest of five brothers who helped their parents Paddy and Breda build Stacksdown Golf Course, which is where Padraig learned the game. He and Jody Fanagan beat Tiger Woods and John Harris, 2 and 1, in foursomes, a massive building block to the 14-10 team win over the Americans in Porthcawl, Wales.
The next year, Harrington was a 24-year-old rookie on the European Tour and in his eighth start he won by four in the Peugeot Open de Espana. If there was mild surprise at the seamless move into the pro ranks, Fanagan once explained to the Irish Sports Desk why there shouldn’t have been.
“I was lucky to play more with him (in foursomes) than against him,” Fanagan said. “He had the hunger and the desire and was a worker with an awesome short game. I could go on.”
One could veer off into the direction of the Ryder Cup, where Harrington was on six European teams, four times a winner, and served as captain in a 2021 loss to the Americans. Or focus on his victories at the Honda Classic (2005 and 2015) and Barclays Classic (2005) at a time when he was playing full-time on both the PGA TOUR and European Tour.
But the direction in which many will go when singing the praises of Harrington is to focus on his obsession with data and analytics, fitting because he almost became an accountant. Harrington once took about six-and-a-half-hours to play a practice round at the Masters, most of the time spent with a level on the Augusta National greens.
What seemed crazy in 2010 – Harrington using a level to note the degree of slope across all 18 greens – surely isn’t in this age, given that intricate yardage books and green-reading material is at the ready for any player or caddie.
“I always get something out of it,” Harrington once said of his firm embrace of information. “Always. Always. You’d be amazed.”
And what appeared to be curious 13 years ago – Harrington playing the back nine from 3:30 to 7 p.m. – became clear when the Irishman explained: “If you want to win this tournament, you’re going to finish at the time I (just played). You have to putt in those shadows I putted in.”
He wasn’t eccentric; he was passionately prepared. He wasn’t stuck in some obsessive silliness; he was a deep thinker who was ahead of the data curve that is now engrained in the game. Even today, he has found success on PGA TOUR Champions by devoting himself to speed training. He was the longest hitter on the 50-and-over circuit by 10 yards last season, winning four times to finish second in the Charles Schwab Cup. And he was never self-centered; he has been uncanny in his reflective insight with the golf media and unwavering in his support to Special Olympics and so many agencies that are connected to the game of golf.
“I assume (the honor) is based on wins,” Harrington told Golf Channel on Wednesday afternoon. “But I’d like to think that (it’s also) my love of the game, my respect of the game, and everything that I love about golf.”
Difficult as it is to quantify, the guess is, the game loves him back with equal fervor.
Jim McCabe has covered golf since 1995, writing for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and PGATOUR.COM. Follow Jim McCabe on Twitter.