Vinny reflects on the wonders of Paddy's ying and Yang
AGAINST THE ODDS: Our hero defends the popular Dubliner, and takes time to count his major blessings
This was car crash golf from the Dubliner for the second successive Sunday, and no one could quite comprehend what they were seeing as Harrington’s hopes of a Major sank in the pond guarding the green.
“He’s played that hole like one of us, a society hacker. Can you believe it?” said the excitable Brennie, in a slightly higher octave than usual.
Gradually, the disbelief fused into indignation, then annoyance, as the financial implications of Harrington’s horror show hit home.
“I had a nifty on him at 9 to 2 to win this morning. That’s torn the backside out of it,” grumbled Fran.
Shanghai Jimmy, his hands twitching visibly as his shakes worsened, was equally aggrieved.
“‘I put a score each way at 25s on Thursday. It’s down the Swanee now. Thanks for nothing, Pod.”
Macker then placed his stout glass down loudly on the wooden table; the noise caught the attention of his friends.
“Lads, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit browned off with Harrington,” he intoned.
“He’s brought us on a journey we never thought possible, but since he changed his swing he’s become unpredictable and is spouting all sorts of gobbledygook. One minute he’s brilliant, the next he’s wojious.
“The way I see it, you can’t rely on him any more, not like the way you used to.”
There was a general nodding of heads in acceptance at Macker’s remarks, before attention returned to the golf, which was now a two-horse race between Tiger Woods and YE Yang, a far less inscrutable Korean than Goldfinger’s Oddjob ever was.
Vinny Fitzpatrick said nothing, which was not unusual, as he was known to keep his counsel and often sat in Foley’s for hours in silence, like a Trappist monk, while his friends nattered on.
Sipping an outstanding pint of Uncle Arthur’s finest, he considered the observations made about Harrington and whether they were fair.
He thought back to the summer of 2007, when Harrington, approaching his mid 30s, was regarded as a good player, not a great one. He had a fine Ryder Cup record, but had pitched up short in the Majors.
Then, within 13 months, it had all taken off. Three Major wins catapulted Harrington into the stratosphere of Irish sporting giants. He had gone from being a humdrum figure to a heroic one.
Vinny considered how his own career path had taken an improbable twist over roughly the same course of time. Two years ago, he was plodding along behind the wheel of a bus that was going nowhere. He was a good driver, not a great one.
His life had been utterly predictable and unexciting. He went from work to the pub to home, with the occasional sporting distraction thrown in.
Like Harrington, he hadn’t found what he was looking for; unlike Harrington, he wasn’t out there working hard to uncover it.
Then, Angie had appeared and suddenly, against the odds, they had proved a winning combination. He had a lifestyle makeover: marriage, impending fatherhood, and had moved out of his old family home in Causeway Avenue after 50 years within its walls.
For someone utterly set in his ways it had been a heck of a lot to take in, yet he had done so, conquering his fears and coming through to the other side.
Just as Harrington had emerged from the dark into golf’s dazzling sunlight, Vinny had had life’s charms thrust upon him in a way he never imagined, never knew existed.
Marrying Angie was like winning the British Open, while the prospect of becoming a first-time father, at 51, had filled him with an unfathomable happiness.
Crucially, it also enabled him to become more sanguine about life’s ups and downs.
Now, when he had a blankety-blank at a hole in a Foley’s society outing, which was a fairly regular occurrence, he didn’t let it get to him the way it did before.
Instead, he would look forward to the next shot with a smile, not a scowl, in the knowledge that his life was fulfilled in so many ways off the course and that golf, after all, was only a game.
As Harrington suffered public humiliation before a worldwide TV audience of millions, there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to run. Yet, the Dubliner bore his trials with fortitude and dignity.
It was, he felt, the moment to offer some perspective.
“Lads, it’s time to stop thinking about Harrington through your wallets. You’re being too harsh on him,” he said.
The lads looked away from the telly.
“Is that right? Go on,” said Macker.
Vinny shuffled his backside about on his stool before continuing.
“Put yourself in Harrington’s position. He knows he’s blown his chance of winning, but there’s no tantrums, no cursing like Tiger, no spitting, no thumping his club into the turf in anger, no loss of self-esteem.
“He comes across the same way when he’s on top of his game, as a gent. He acknowledges the crowd, doffs his cap, and smiles. Now, that’s easy when you’ve made eagle or birdie, not so easy when you’ve just had a snowman at a par three.
“That Harrington is even capable of contending in a Major again should be a source of pride for us; don’t beat him up just because he’s played one hole badly. Give the guy a break.
“We built him up to be a hero, so let’s not bring him down. Remember the joy he gave us winning those three Majors.”
Macker whistled softly before responding.
“There ended the case for the defence, m’lord,” he said. “Spoken from the heart, Vinny. Easy knowing you didn’t back him,” he added.
Vinny smiled. “You’re right, I didn’t.”
But he had secretly invested a tenner on Yang at 16 to 1 before the fourth round got under way, sensing the odds were too good to overlook.
At that moment, the Korean holed a chip for an eagle on the 14th to put Tiger under the cosh and Vinny felt that familiar, electric tingle course through his finger tips and toes once more.
Bets of the week
3pts Cork to beat Tyrone in All-Ireland SFC (13/8, Paddy Power)
2pts Changingoftheguard to win Totesport Ebor (10/3, Coral)
1pt Lay England to lose fifth Test to Australia (4/1, liability 4pts, general)