Padraig Harrington may be one of the most profound people in all of golf.
He won’t give vanilla quotes and he won’t sugarcoat anything. After Sergio Garcia won the Masters in April, Harrington was asked about their past and commented that the Spaniard had been “a very sore loser.” The Irishman got some heat for those thoughts, but what was the problem? He was asked about the past and was being honest.
Garcia himself understood, as the pair actually made peace later that month at Rory McIlroy’s wedding in part due to those comments.
Anyway, we’re pointing this out because Harrington offered another pretty interesting nugget earlier this week.
The 45-year-old appeared on Barstool Sports’ Fore Play podcast, and the whole thing is worth a listen. (You can do so here.)
The most compelling part, though? When Harrington talked about what launched his professional career.
Harrington’s first year on the European Tour (and in pro golf) was 1996, and he actually won his first professional event that May at the circuit’s Peugeot Spanish Open.
That had to be the breakthrough that gave him the confidence to embark on a career that would produce three major championships, right? Nope.
In fact, the moment of light came through several weeks earlier.
As Harrington told the Fore Play podcast duo, he was playing in a Challenge Tour event in Kenya when he got a late invite to the European Tour’s FNB Players Championship – played at Durban Country Club in South Africa.
Harrington accepted and made the long trip there but got sick along the way, becoming “badly dehydrated.” The Irishman’s recollection of how bad it was: “I just shivered my way through the night.”
Oh, and he was playing with clubs that week that were 4 degrees too upright for him.
In essence, everything was going wrong. But he would play, and make the cut. And just doing that gave the future major champion all the confidence he needed.
“At the end of the week, I finished 48th (Editor’s Note: It was actually T-49) and I won 1,460 pounds,” Harrington said on the Fore Play podcast. “I rang my mother and said, ‘I cannot believe I could make the cut, finish 48th at an event playing the way I did and they’re just giving this money away.’ ”
Just in case you think we’re exaggerating, Harrington followed by noting the carryover effect of that week.
“It just was such a boost to me that I could feel like I didn’t play my best and still belonged,” Harrington said. “I played at my worst – what I thought was my worst – and I still made the cut. That just gave me tremendous confidence going forward.”
That would be the first of nine straight made cuts to start 1996, with that final one being the win in May.
A pretty cool perspective from Harrington, showing that wins aren’t always the catapult: sometimes success can arise from a seemingly innocuous event.
We also want to highlight Harrington’s thoughts on his own golfing prospects in his early years.
Harrington actually wasn’t convinced he was good enough to turn pro at age 24 even though he had played in the 1995 Walker Cup. He did indeed turn pro though because he saw the guys he was beating were doing so.
What did he think he would do as a professional? Harrington’s prediction for himself was way, way off.
“Success for me would have been five years on the European Tour finishing 76th-100th on the Order of Merit, I would’ve considered that a great success.”
Wow, and that’s not all.
“I’m sure if I looked back now at the person I was when I was 24, I probably would’ve predicted that that guy doesn’t make it as a golfer,” Harrington added.
Not making it as a golfer? Try three majors and a combined 18 wins on the PGA and European tours.
Harrington can’t do enough talking. He always brings the goods.