Pádraig Harrington goes back to his roots with Marlay Park public putting green

Three-time Major winner took his first steps in golf on the old Par 3 course in the park

Pádraig Harrington, an cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Lettie McCarthy and Golf Ireland chief executive Mark Kennelly at Marlay Park in Dublin, the site of a new public putting green that is due to open next spring. Photograph: Peter Kavanagh/DLR CoCo

Pádraig Harrington, an cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Lettie McCarthy and Golf Ireland chief executive Mark Kennelly at Marlay Park in Dublin, the site of a new public putting green that is due to open next spring. Photograph: Peter Kavanagh/DLR CoCo

 

This is home turf for Pádraig Harrington, not far from the family home in Rathfarnham. In a corner of Marlay Park, not far from the now obsolete Par 3 course where he brought his mother Breda to first hit golf shots, the three-time Major champion eyes the grassless pile of undersoil and stones that form part of his vision to bring golf – or, rather, putting – to the masses.

Inspired by witnessing the different generations who utilise the putting area known as the Himalayas by the Old Course in St Andrews, this is the Dubliner’s own version: come spring 2022, the grass (a combination of bentgrass and poa) will have grown – big-time players in golf construction, Atlantic Golf Construction and Turfgrass, are involved with support too from Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the R&A and Golf Ireland – and the 3,000 square metres complex will be good to go.

Looking through the security fence at the evolving groundwork, Harrington observed: “There’s going to be loads of undulations on it. It’s not going to be a flat green, there will be loads of fun and frustration in this. We will be putting to plateaus and over and around the hills . . . we got a great site. It was all grown over with rocks and cement, so they’ve done a good job clearing the trees and cutting them back for light and tidying things up. It’ll be something that everyone can enjoy, and it will be free to use.”

There is a palpable excitement to Harrington’s voice as he can see the vision manifesting itself; and, it would seem, that sense of excitement has crossed itself over into how he looks ahead to what remains of his own competitive golfing career.

Having turned 50 in August, Harrington has dipped his toes into life on the Champions Tour in the United States but that remains just one of his playing options. Indeed, a fourth place finish in the US PGA this season has earned him a return ticket to the Masters next April (for the first time since 2015) and his exemptions into the US PGA and British Open will ensure that his playing schedules, whichever route he takes, will be as busy as ever.

“I am running off the right-hand side of the page now with options of where to play. You know, some weeks I could play four tournaments!” said Harrington of having options on the European Tour, PGA Tour, Champions Tour and Legends Tour.

Pádraig Harrington: ‘I am putting much better, since the middle of Covid I started putting well again’. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Getty Images
Pádraig Harrington: ‘I am putting much better, since the middle of Covid I started putting well again’. Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Getty Images

Yet, rather than diving nose first into the Champions Tour, it would seem that more time – for now – will be spent competing against the younger golfing rivals. In fact, those recent two outings on the Champions Tour, where he was never a contender, only served to open his eyes to the areas that need work as he seeks to extend his longevity on the main circuits.

“It was interesting. I was well and truly lapped. I am maintaining the physicality for the main tour thinking that I need it, but clearly it is the other parts that I need. So, it was a good wake up call.

“It has encouraged me that I can be competitive with the young guys because now some parts of my game just aren’t strong enough and I have to work on them. It is not the hitting of the golf ball bit, it is the wedges and the mental side, areas like that. I am putting much better, since the middle of Covid I started putting well again, much better that it was pre-Covid, so there is hope on that front as well.

“Golfwise, I have never been as excited about my own golf . . . I am buzzing about my golf. I have never hit the golf ball better, never hit the golf ball further. I just need to be disciplined to do the right practice to get my head in the game.

“I have never been as excited about my golf and I don’t know if it is because I am freed up after the Ryder Cup, or I have started on the Champions Tour, or maybe just the fact I am hitting the ball better than I have ever hit the ball. I don’t know. But I am excited. It could be, ‘oh, the Ryder Cup is over’ and it feels like a release. But also it could be I am, not playing great golf, but hitting the golf ball great and there is no worries there and I am envisaging what could be. But it also might be a new opportunity in terms of the Champions Tour.”

Perhaps, a combination of everything? More immediately, Harrington will get back on the course at the European Tour stops in Portugal and Dubai in the coming weeks intent on breaking into the top-50 who make it to the Tour Championship (he is currently 68th on the Race to Dubai standings).

And, as he observed the work in progress of his putting green for the public on an old stomping ground in Marlay Park, it was as if the whole process has been a reinvigorating one on his own journey onwards beyond 50.

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