Friday, 19 March 2010

As the European Challenge Tour heads to Padraig Harrington’s homeland for the Challenge of Ireland presented by Glasson, any of the aspiring professionals in the field looking for inspiration need look no further than the Irishman’s heroic victory at The Open Championship.

Harrington’s play-off win over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie was a victory for the dedication and commitment that transformed the 35 year old into a Major Champion, and one of the most formidable players in the world.

Few can claim to have worked as intensely as Harrington has to become the World Number Six, and any Challenge Tour player looking for a role model of enhancement need only look at Harrington’s example for inspiration.

Stephen Browne and Colm Morairty, who are among the big Irish hopes at the Glasson Hotel Golf & Country Club this week, have certainly taken inspiration from Harrington, one of  Ireland’s most famous sporting sons.

“I played with Padraig as an amateur and he went from being an average ball striker to a guy who is one of the best in the world,” said Browne, who is two years younger than Harrington.

“I’ll never forget the Kilkenny Scratch Cup – it must have been 14 years ago. It was just a small amateur 36 hole event on a Saturday and I went down on the Friday to have a practice round because my brother was a member.

“When I got there I saw Padraig on the putting green practicing this three foot putt, pretty much the same putt he had to win The Open.

“I played my 18 holes and came back in and there he was, still practicing the same putt. He had been there for at least four hours, it was quite incredible, and you could see the work ethic and the dedication and hunger even then. At that stage he was going to be an accountant!

“He’s amazing for his discipline. He once told that he has never had a swing thought on the golf course, he just thinks of his target and hits the shot which is unbelievable discipline.

“You can always relate your game to Padraig’s because of the improvements he made. Knowing that, you can look at it and say ‘well if he can improve that much then I can improve as well’. It’s certainly an inspiration for every Irish professional.”

Moriarty could not agree more. The 26 year old felt the ‘Harrington effect’ last week as he stormed to his maiden Challenge Tour victory at the FIRSTPLUS Wales Challenge, and he is hoping to continue his rich vein of form at his home course, the Glasson Hotel, Golf & Country Club.

“There’s no doubt that Padraig is an inspiration to all of us,” said Moriarty. “What he has done is brilliant for Irish golf and because he is a guy who has come through the same system as all of the Irish lads and got to the very top, it gives you the feeling that you can achieve similar results if you put the work in.”

Browne and Moriarty will be joined by 23 other Irishmen in the field this week, along with many of Europe’s brightest young players, including the Challenge Tour’s Number One and Two players, Felipe Aguilar of Chile and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari.

Also lining up in Ireland is England’s Peter Baker, whose last visit to Ireland saw him play an integral role in Europe’s record equalling Ryder Cup win when he was one of Ian Woosnam’s Vice-Captains at The K Club.

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