How is your portfolio of favorite golfers these days? Thinned out in the Tiger Economy? Perhaps you'd like to look at this guy. Maybe you know him vaguely already. The Irish Guy Who Isn't Darren Clarke. The Irish Guy Who Didn't Beat Tiger Woods This Year. The Irish Guy Who Doesn't Chomp Cigars or Drive a Red Ferrari.
Ring any bells? Paw-drag HAIR-ington, they call him on television. Paw-drig HARR-ington, they call him in Dublin. Paddy Harrington's son, they call him in Cork. Good long-term bet. Very little downside risk. Nice price-to-earnings ratio.
Here comes some ticker-tape stuff: Fourth on the European points list for next year's Ryder Cup. Beat Mark O'Meara on the last day at Brookline in '99, even having the chutzpah to walk 115 yards up the 17th fairway to inspect the green while O'Meara fiddled and the crowd catcalled. Last month, won his second European tour event of the season, in Madrid. Gave away another win earlier in the year. Most colorful quote: "I'm twice as meticulous as the next most meticulous man on the tour." Not sexy enough for you? He's a fully qualified accountant, too. Hey, just take a look. Can't hurt. You decide. Take a look, though, and you'll be sweet on him. Promise.
Stackstown golf club is a green blanket wrapped around the shoulders of a couple of gray mountains outside Dublin. You would put a golf course here only if you really had to. Paddy Harrington was a founding member. Paddy was a cop. Country-faced and stoical, but a well-known cop nonetheless. He had played Gaelic football for Cork for 11 seasons, starring on defense for a team that twice reached the Super Bowl stage of Ireland's No. 1 game in the '50s.
Fast-forward to the '70s, to a time when Paddy Harrington was a cop with a great past behind him and nothing but middle age in front of him. Despite the crowds and the television money, Gaelic football is an amateur game. Stars leave in the same clothes they arrived in.
Paddy made his crust in the streets of Dublin. On days off he needed an escape. No golf club in staid, class-ridden old Dublin would have a cop as a member, so with 11 other cops, Harrington set about building Stackstown. Building it by hand, that is, hewing it out of the mountains.
Padraig, now 29, was the youngest of Paddy's five sons. Two of the Harrington boys would become cops like their dad, one would be a printer and the other an accountant. Padraig did what he was told.
Growing up, the Harrington boys had a 120-acre playground on which to burn themselves out. Weekend after weekend it was the same—search parties of Harringtons looking for stones to pluck from nascent fairways. Wearing coats and mittens, they tramped solemnly in circles to flatten the greens. Today Padraig can stand on the 12th green in Stackstown and remember all the mileage put into making the sward flat. "What exactly were we doing, Dad?" he'll ask. These days the 12th green slopes like a ski-house roof.
Not that anyone cares. It took two years for the cops to build Stackstown, and when it was done, it was theirs. Their course. Blue-collar in a literal way.
Harrington came out of the traps fast when his amateur days were over. He was 24 and had time to make up for. Three Walker Cup appearances had plumped him full of confidence, and for a while, after Clarke had turned pro, Harrington was the top amateur in Ireland.