GOLF: Interview with Stackstown GC star

by Gazette Reporter
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BY DAIRE WALSH

Despite winning his three Majors between 2007 and 2008, Padraig Harrington is loving his golf now more than ever.

It is the twilight years of his professional career but with his right knee holding up he is determined to stay active on the DP World Tour and PGA Tour at 51.

His sensational form on the PGA Tour Champions might suggest he will focus his efforts there but he can still compete against the very best and winning against the young guns is a delightful carrot.

“I am actually probably loving it more than ever,” said Harrington.  

“I went through a period where five or six years ago I would have been a bit burnt out and finding it hard but I have got rid of a lot of the stuff I don’t want to do and I am really enjoying my life on tour and that’s showing up in my golf.”

Harrington hasn’t been afraid to move with the times either, even outside of the golf course he has taken to social media since the Pandemic and shared some useful hints and tips about the game.

While more recently his giant Bernese Mountain dog, Wilson, has become a feature of the non work-related activities online.

But even with this sideshow, and being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame class of 2024, the legendary Irish golfer is still looking to find ways to improve his game.

Swing speed has been a huge focus for Harrington and winning a recent bet with Shane Lowry, where he got to 191 mph, was another feather in the cap.

“If you want to keep your swing speed up you have just got to keep working at it,” said Harrington.

“It’s generally not a physical thing when it comes to swing speed. So it’s not a gym thing, it’s not getting stronger in the gym. Not saying that that isn’t a problem but the real thing with it is breaking the mental, psychological barrier of swinging faster without the fear of hitting crooked.  

“So if you are going to try and work on your speed you have to give up the idea that you are trying to hit it straight. You should be doing it in a net, or in an indoor simulator or on a driving range where you are nearly trying not to hit it straight.  

“And then when you go and play just play within yourself, like there is no reason to swing so hard on the golf course. But if you train yourself to swing 10 miles an hour quicker when you swing easy you will be five miles an hour quicker.”

But the man who began his career playing amateur golf in Stackstown, is cognisant that this cannot go on forever. And while he is fit and able he wants to make the most of his professional career. Surgery to his knee can definitely wait.

“I need an operation on my right knee but no I am not going to do that in the very near future,” said Harrington.  

“I am playing too well to have to take six months out. So I will push it as far as I can. I am managing it, I am working, doing a lot of physio. Really strengthening the rest of the leg to protect the knee. I am good to go at the moment.”

Meanwhile, he will continue to defy logic and compete with the elite golfers around the world.  

Miguel Angel Jimenez is the oldest winner on the DP World Tour, he won the Spanish Open in 2014 when he was 50 years and 133 days.

And while Harrington knows that is a record he could certainly break there are more important things in life, at this stage of his golfing journey.

“It’s a nice thing to be the oldest winner but to be honest my aim is just to win,” said Harrington.

“I feel good about my game and I feel like I can win at any stage. I don’t feel like I have to get lucky to win. I feel like it’s well within myself. It’s a nice accolade but I’m definitely just out there to win.”

Harrington was the captain for the Ryder Cup last time out, an unsuccessful trip to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where Europe succumbed to a 19-9 defeat.

But as Luke Donald’s charges begin to take shape ahead of this September’s renewal in Rome, Harrington is confident that between Masters and RBC Heritage winners, Europe are in a good place this year.

“Our top players are playing great.,” said Harrington.

“We have got maybe seven clear players ahead of the rest. We do need the extra five though. We need a couple of senior guys to re-find their form and we need a couple of young guys to show some form.  

“It’s there, certainly when you have the top end, Jon Rahm playing so well, Matt Fitzpatrick winning last week. I saw a stat that we have seven European wins this year. So there is a lot of good stuff happening.”

Harrington was back in Ireland last week where he opened the Marlay Putting Green. The initiative was three years in the making but with funding from the R&A and Golf Ireland, supported by Sport Ireland’s special projects scheme, he got to make the first putt last Friday.

“Putting is easy for beginners and really difficult for experienced people,” said Harrington.

“So I wanted to give something that everybody can come and enjoy. You don’t have to be a golfer you can just walk by in your jogging gear and stop and have a putt for ten minutes.  

“Or play the course, spend half an hour, spend an hour. Have fun with your kids, grandchildren.

“The whole family can come and play, mothers and daughters. Everybody can have a bit of fun and it’s free, it’s accessible to all.  

“And there’s no rules and regulations. So people don’t have to worry about coming here and fitting in in some way. What they are wearing and what not. They can come here and enjoy it on their own terms and hopefully come back.”

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