The personal hero that I chosen for this assignment is Irish golfer Padraig Harrington. As an avid golfer myself, Harrington was a huge inspiration throughout my childhood and remains an inspiration today. Harrington won one of golf’s four majors in 2007, becoming the first Irish person to do so in over 60 years. He would go on to win another 2 majors in 2008, paving the way for future Irish major winners in the coming years including Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry. Although his best playing days are behind him at the age of 49, he is set to captain the European Ryder Cup team in 2021.
Harrington was born in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of five sons of Patrick and Breda Harrington. His father, "Paddy", a Garda who played Gaelic football for Cork in the 1950s, was also a boxer and hurler, and played to a five handicap in golf.
Harrington grew up in Rathfarnham, an area on Dublin's southside and the birthplace of two other professional golfers, Paul McGinley and Peter Lawrie. Encouraged by his brothers and father, Harrington's interest and passion for golf grew as he developed his game at nearby Stackstown Golf Club.
After a successful amateur career, including winning the Walker Cup with the Great Britain & Ireland team in his third appearance in 1995, Harrington turned professional later that year, joining the European Tour in 1996. Harrington came to professional golf at a relatively late age, having studied accountancy at university for a number of years while playing high-standard amateur golf. He was unsure whether to turn professional, initially doubting his skills.
His first victory came quickly, in the 1996 Peugeot Spanish Open, his 10th start on the European Tour. But for the next few years the most remarkable thing about his career was the number of times he finished second in European Tour events without ever bettering that position, including four second places in five events in late 1999. With these runners up finishes Harrington qualified to make his Ryder Cup debut in 1999. However, in 2000 Harrington discovered a winning touch with two European Tour wins at the Brazil São Paulo 500 Years Open in April, and the BBVA Open Turespaña Masters Comunidad de Madrid in October
Harrington would go on to record more wins on the European Tour between 2001 and 2004 and played at both the 2002 and 2004 ryder cups. In 2005 having joined the PGA Tour (see below), Harrington played fewer events on the European Tour and experienced his first winless year on the tour since 1999. In 2006 Harrington was once again a winner on the European Tour at the 2006 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, this was his second links golf win having also won the event in 2002 and was a prelude for his future Open Championship success. In 2007 Harrington won his home open, The Irish Open for the first time, in doing so Harrington became the first home winner of the Irish Open for 25 years.
At the 2007 Open Championship, Harrington defeated Sergio García in a four-hole playoff at Carnoustie Golf Links, becoming the first Irishman to win The Open Championship in 60 years, and the first ever from the Republic of Ireland. Both players went into the playoff having shot a 7-under 277 for the championship. Harrington subsequently won by one stroke in the playoff.
A year later at the 2008 Open Championship, it was unclear if he would get a chance to defend his Open title at Royal Birkdale as eight days prior to the event he injured his wrist. But Harrington successfully defended his title, overcoming a 2-shot deficit to Greg Norman with a final round 69. He shot a four-under-par 32 on the back nine, which enabled him to pull away from Norman and Ian Poulter. His eagle on the par-5 17th all but sealed the tournament. He is the first European golfer since James Braid in 1906 to retain the Claret Jug. The win moved him from fourteenth to third in the world rankings, behind only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Just three weeks after winning the Open Championship, Harrington won the PGA Championship over the South Course of the Oakland Hills Country Club, for his third major. Although at five over par after two rounds, he shot eight under par for the weekend, carding successive scores of 66 in the third and fourth rounds. His three under par 277 was two shots ahead of Sergio García and Ben Curtis. Harrington became the first European to win the PGA Championship in 78 years (Tommy Armour in 1930), and was the first winner from Ireland.
On 8 January 2019, Harrington was named as the captain for the 2020 Ryder Cup. The three-time Major Champion has a storied Ryder Cup career, having represented Europe six times as a player – including being part of four triumphs – while latterly he has brought his extensive experience to the role of Vice-Captain in the past three editions of the biennial contest.
The 47-year-old joins Paul McGinley (2014) and Darren Clarke (2016), as professionals from the island of Ireland to lead Europe and will be hoping to emulate the last European triumph on American soil – at Medinah in 2012 – as Europe defend the trophy won memorably at Le Golf National last September.
As a player, Harrington made his Ryder Cup debut at The Country Club in Brookline in 1999 and was ever-present for the following five editions, helping Europe to victory in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010. The Irishman claimed a total of 10½ points over his six Ryder Cup appearances, starting at Brookline in 1999. Harrington’s greatest single match points haul of four from five matches came in Europe’s record-breaking 18½ – 9½ victory at Oakland Hills in 2004