Pádraig Harrington says he has one goal for his son, Paddy when it comes to golf – that in 80 years’ time, he’s still playing a game he loves.
The three-time Major winner was speaking ahead of this week’s Parent-Child PNC Championship where he’ll once again partner with Paddy, best known as the man behind the camera for Harrington’s swing tip series that kept so many of us sane through lockdown.
“My goal for Paddy when it comes to golf is that he loves the game, and in 80 years he still loves the game and playing the game. That’s my goal.”
Young Paddy, now 19, was also getting interviewed and standing next to his dad at the time, and he was quick to do the maths.
“I’m 19, 80 years from now…”
A laughing Harrington quickly interrupted, saying, “Yeah, you’ll be on. I put money on it that you’ll be playing the game in 80 years. 99 years of age. You’ll be living longer!
“I want my son to be respectful at the game, love the game, have the etiquette of the game.
“To wish your son to be a professional or to be as good, that’s a different obsession. So at the end of the day, an event like this is, okay, we’re on the big stage, but we’re actually here just to be involved in the game and enjoy the game, hit good shots.
“Now, I can guarantee if we play well and everything goes well, we’ll be stressing and trying hard on the last couple of holes. But it doesn’t mean we have to do that all week.”
As far as father and son dynamics go, the Harringtons will be a far more relatable duo teeing up at the Ritz Carlton this weekend than Tiger and Charlie Woods. With the internet already in overdrive about the possibility of 13-year old Charlie one day following in his father’s footsteps, Paddy, a decent handicap golfer, revealed that he could empathise with the hype train behind Charlie having experienced much the same as a child of a multiple Major winner.
“In Ireland, I would get a similar kind of perspective,” Paddy said. “‘Are you going pro?’ No. ‘What’s your handicap?’
“There is definitely a judgement there.”
His dad agrees; “In an Irish context, you know, ten years ago, I’m not saying now, you can understand there is that level of focus on Paddy, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a pro, you’re going to follow your dad’s footsteps, you’re going to do this.’
“And then if Paddy turns around and says, ‘Well, you know, I’m an amateur, I play off this handicap’, you know, there’s a lot of judgment. There’s an awful lot.”
Harrington accepts that such judgements are a price of the fame his own play has bestowed upon the family.
“I think at home in Ireland, yeah, Paddy has to put up with that,” Harrington says. “You’ll be in places and you think you’re on your own, but people know who you are.
“Everybody pays a certain price for everything they get in life. So the more famous you are, the better you’re doing, you’re going to have to put up with that.
“People have come up to him at times and said things, done things, whatever, and I said, ‘Well, that’s the price you pay for being my son. And everything, all the good, all this, all this money we make out of golf, the lifestyle it’s given us, there’s always something you have to pay back’.
“Sometimes it’s a lack of privacy, even for Paddy at times. But as I point out, we’d rather it that way because that’s why we’re doing so well.”
You’d like to think there’s a not a sinner in Ireland who would begrudge Harrington his success. His three Major titles in 2007 and 2008 brought so much joy to the country while he continues to be one of the most interesting characters in the game, representing the island wonderfully wherever he goes.
Harrington’s own love of golf has never wavered and the Dubliner truly hopes his own longevity can match that of Gary Player and Lee Trevino, punching his ticket to PNC Championships for many years to come.
“I really, really hope so,” he says. “The one thing I know, and I’ve seen this, some people can win major tournaments, and it can be a bit of a burden to try to live up to it. I’ve won my three tournaments. I’m going to take that glory all the way through my retirement. If somebody wants me to sign a flag, I’m going to wave at the crowds. I did it. There’s no question about it.
“And I’m going to enjoy that. I’m not going to beat myself up. I’ve tried that in golf, and you just burn out. I’m going to enjoy the fact that I won three majors. There’s not very many people who have done that in the game.
“And I’d love to be back here when I’m 80 years of age, enjoying it, waving at the crowd and saying, ‘Hey, guys, I did it.’”
80 years of age! What happened to 99?!
“I don’t know if people my age will get to 99, but the young people will,” Harrington says.
“A 10-year-old, if you start your kid off playing golf at 10, he’ll play for 90 years. There’s no way 10-year-olds aren’t going to make it to a hundred. We might not, but the 10-year-olds will.
“Remember, golf extends your active life by about eight years. Extends your actual life seems to be about five years. Keep playing. Never give it up. Just go to a shorter golf course!”
Amen to that, Pádraig!