Charity golf show to be the first initiative
Nobody needs to tell Padraig Harrington golf has been good to him. In less than 10 years as a professional, he has netted more than €14 million in official prize money and, while the Dubliner has always exercised a social conscience and contributed significantly to worthy causes with his time, he has decided to do so in a more substantive way with the formation of the Padraig Harrington Charitable Foundation.
In launching the foundation at the City West resort in Dublin yesterday, Harrington - who has risen to sixth in the world's golf rankings this season - announced he will host a charity golf show there on January 13th, the first initiative of the charity.
The show will be limited to an audience of just under 1,500 (tickets are on sale from Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.ie or by telephone at 0818-719300) with Harrington, noted as what is called a "range rat" on tour for the amount of time he spends on the practice ground, insistent that those who attend will benefit greatly from the experience.
"I've spent six years with Bob Torrance totally remodelling my swing," he said, "and I've always tinkered up to that for the previous eight years. I've actually learned how to swing a golf club. Some people naturally swing a golf club well and they never really know how to do it. I've actually had to learn how, so I have a very good understanding of what everybody is going through in their golf swings.
"Whether they're a casual player, a competitive player or even a raw beginner, I believe 100 per cent that anyone who comes to this (show) will walk away with an improved knowledge of the game and will improve both in scoring and striking.
"It won't be stuff that will make you go home and beat balls for weeks on end. It will be stuff that, if they stick with it, will change their golf game immediately and will continue to change it for as ever long as they can remember. There will be quick fixes but it is more long term."
The show will be sponsored by Kartel and O2 with associate sponsors Appleby Jewellers, Easy-Putt, Hi-Tech Sports and Wilson Golf to ensure the proceeds from ticket sales will go to the foundation.
Yesterday, Harrington - missing the blond highlights that have accompanied him on fairways around the globe throughout 2004, but promising a hairstyle with "white tips" by the end of the week - was pleased as punch the charitable foundation which has been swimming around in his head for a number of years had come to fruition.
Yet, while he has embarked on a nine-week break from competition before resuming play in the Malaysian Open in February, he was also anticipating the year ahead with increased optimism.
In reflecting on his performances in 2004, he described it as "an up-and-down year, an erratic year. Obviously, I didn't have enough wins. I've had 13 top 10s but 12 of them were actually top five so, I've either played well or I didn't. But it has been a good learning year because of the downs. I've definitely come out of the year understanding my golf swing far more than I ever have.
"I'm much more on top of it and I'm in a better position with my whole game to move forward. I'm in a position to go into a playing mode when I go to tournaments rather than a practising mode. It's amazing. I've finished (playing) for this year but I'm really keen to get out again."
As far as the tinkering with his swing is concerned, Harrington doesn't intend any changes over the winter months. "I'm just trying to tie it together. I'm changing nothing now. My good swings are as good as I ever want them to be and I just have to work on gelling the whole swing together. The flow, the rhythm, the co-ordination. All those little things are massive in the golf swing and I just have to put them all together. I don't have to change anything. I'm in a good spot with my golf swing."
When Harrington does resurface in the spring, more of his time will be spent in America where he will take up his Tour card - as well as retaining his European Tour status - which is all geared to his intention to try to break into the world's top five and, most pertinently, towards attempting to win a major championship.
After the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in September, where Harrington won four of a possible five points in inspiring Europe to a record win over the US, those members of the winning team conceded the next step for them was to move on and win majors.
"You know, it's all changed around," observed Harrington. "Six months ago when I dropped out of the top 10 (in the world) there was woe and consternation. But I did say at the time that it was swings and roundabouts, that it ebbs and flows. That we'd had a great period in the '80s and '90s and it had drifted away but that we're coming strong again.
"Now, you look around and the best young players in the world seem to be Europeans. A major has to come. One of the guys wins it, and all of a sudden it seems much more accessible."
So, is a major top of his goals for 2005?
"Ah, it wouldn't be for me to say. But it is very obvious to believe that's what I am thinking about. But I wouldn't tell you that."