“Categorically I can say my caddie won me the 2007 Open”

Ronan MacNamara

Padraig Harrington (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Pádraig Harrington had a beaming smile from ear to ear as he received the World Golf Hall of Fame plaque from his son Patrick at the induction ceremony on Monday night. But in textbook Harrington fashion, even in his moment of glory, it was all about someone else.

And rightly so. After all looking back there is no doubt that the 2007 Open Championship was a sliding doors moment not only for himself but for Irish golf. Had he lost that Claret Jug at Carnoustie to Sergio Garcia would he have won the 2008 Open and PGA Championship? Would Irish players have won majors in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and so on?

Would Harrington be in the hall of fame? It was only fitting that when he was whittling down his induction speech from half an hour to the required eight minutes for autocue that he included a fitting tribute to his caddie of twenty years, Ronan Flood.

“People always ask if caddies make a difference. Categorically I can say, Ronan won me the 2007 Open Championship. On the 72nd hole when I hit my second ball in the water it was the first and only time I was on the golf course where I felt embarrassed,” explained Harrington at the ceremony.

“I wanted to give up I really thought I had thrown away the Open. However, Ronan stuck to his guns and started into the cliches, ‘it’s not over yet, one shot at a time’ and so on. I think he took the four iron off me pretty quickly because I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have had a swing at him with it!

“But we kept walking and he kept doing his job and he got in my head. As I walked up to take my penalty drop and by the time I played my fifth shot I hit it like a teenager. I was right back in the zone. I told this story for months afterwards of how my caddie didn’t give up on me and how he believed.

“It took about three months before he was in the room and heard me tell the story and he let me tell it. He stood up at the end and while he acknowledged that he said all those things he also thought I’d lost the f***ing Open!

“I did actually quieten that down for TV, it was a little stronger language actually.”

The 52-year-old largely plays his competitive golf on the Champions Tour and he will stand shoulder to shoulder with several Hall of Fame golfers from Bernhard Langer and Vijay Singh, from Ernie Els to Fred Couples.

“You kind of look at these guys and you want to be one of them. You want to be part of it,” Harrington said. “And many of the guys on the Champions Tour, their careers were a little bit ahead of me so they were actually guys I would have looked up to when I was turning pro. They’re guys I would have watched on TV at pro events.

“So it’s nice to be part of that crowd.”

Harrington added: “I’m not sure whether I love the game or the game loves me. I love the fact it was never meant to be a fair game, it was always meant to be a test of skill and mental fortitude. I loved the rules, the etiquette, the competition. Most of all I love meritocracy, it’s up to you to get it done.

“Being out on tour was like being a kid in a candy shop. As a mentor I hope I am there for the other Irish pros who have come after me, like Shane Lowry who of course is not so young anymore!

“I think my mum and dad would be most proud of me for doing the right things in golf, for getting it done the right way. It wasn’t always about results. They enjoyed how I played but I was only really going to be judged on my attitude and how I handled myself on the golf course.

“As you can see with my story, everything is possible. Everything is possible if you are given the opportunity. I am grateful to everyone who has made this possible. I hope to live up to their high standards and the standards of the hall of fame.”

Harrington concluded his speech with the famous line from his former coach Bob Torrance who would deliver the same quote every time he left the practice range for the first tee in a tournament.

“These are the happiest days of our lives.”


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