Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington will make his PNC Father/Son Challenge debut this week with now 14-year old son, Paddy as his partner.
The two-day event again takes place starting Saturday on the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes course in Orlando and Harrington and his son will rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game, none higher than 18-time Major winning Jack Nicklaus who will tee-up with his grandson as partner.
Lee Trevino is also competing with his son while double Masters winner Bernhard Langer will again have his daughter for a partner while the defending champion is former Open Champion, David Duval and his stepson.
So, the Harrington’s will face some stiff opposition considering you can count on a few fingers how many rounds of 18-holes Paddy Harrington has played off what his father says is a current 27-handicap.
We all remember young Paddy, then aged just four when he endeared himself to the golf world when asking his father if he could put Ladybugs in the famed Claret Jug moments after Harrington captured the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie. It led Harrington to forever carry a red-and-black ‘Ladybug’ headcover on his driver.
Harrington was quizzed about this coming week’s competition and the first of having his son as his partner.
This is your first time playing the PNC Father/Son Challenge – can you sum up your feelings on joining the event and playing alongside your son?
This will be my first time playing the PNC Father/Son Challenge so it’s interesting to see what it’ll be like. I’ve been asking a couple of the other guys who’ve played before about what it’s like but either way, I’m really looking forward to playing with my son. My son isn’t a big golfer at this moment. Rugby is his favourite followed by basketball, but this has piqued his interest and a catalyst to him putting a bit more work in to his golf. He plays around once a week at the moment but he’s been thinking about it a bit more since we committed to playing.
What are the strengths of Paddy’s game?
He’s not very experienced when it comes to golf so the little bit of work we’ve put in around his swing have been focused on trying to make him a more consistently good striker. We’ve worked a lot on his short game too and this is something he’s been improving.
What is your best “golf” memory with Paddy?
It has to be when he was three and half years of age. He ran on to the 18th green at Carnoustie after the final round, after I thought I might have just lost The Open Championship and he looked at me like I was the champion which changed my mind-set heading in to the playoff. Secondly, when I won the trophy he came on to the green and put his hands on the trophy and, I think it might have been missed on the US TV coverage, but he said it live on TV in the UK, ‘Dad, can we put ladybirds in the trophy?’ He just saw the trophy as another piece of tupperware to store insects in, which I thought was cute. He’s not as cute as that now he’s 14.
How will you manage your competitive edge and will to win with the patience required to make Paddy comfortable in a tournament?
Obviously, we’d love to be competitive but I’m understanding that when it comes to golf, he’s not as experienced as he is in other sports. I have to manage his expectations and my own expectations as we’re certainly not going to be the best partnership there and a lot of things will have to go right for us to win. I feel that we can be respectful and do well, I’m trying to get that thought in to his head. I don’t want him to be disappointed if we don’t finish near the top but we’ll be doing our best and we’re looking forward to the week.
How often do you and Paddy play together?
Like all parents will say, we don’t play enough. I’d like to say once a week but it’s probably more like once a month. We do get a little bit of time to practice at my house on the simulator and a bit of chipping and putting.
What advice have you given him specific to golf?
Firstly, I encourage him to have a good set up, we’ve done a lot of work on the grip this year which is tough to do with a teenager because it changes a bit week-to-week. I’ve also taught him to have a big, powerful strong swing, I think that’s the future of golf. He’s very athletic so I’ve kept him moving over the ball and hit it hard with good balance. Lastly, I just want him to enjoy the game. I want him to hit great shots that he can remember and get excitement from. I want him to be aggressive, cut corners and use his imagination.