If there is a finer gentleman than golfer Padraig Harrington in world sport, he will be hard to find.
The Irish golfer, a three time major winner, attended the Monday night Wall Street 50 event of our sister publication Irish America magazine.
He was a huge hit with the 300 or so Wall Street honchos who turned up at the New York Yacht Club to honor him and Bank of America number two Brian Moynihan.
Anyone who doubted the decency of Harrington needed to be present at the New York Yacht club at about 11 p.m.
Most of the guests had departed, but Harrington stayed on signing programs and autographs for the staff who poured out of the kitchens to get their photograph taken with the sports star, and autographed copies of the magazine.
No task was too small for him, and some of the waiters and kitchen help spoke poor English. Harrington was infinitely patient, inscribing copies of the magazine to their loved ones.
It was the act of a true gentleman who has never forgotten where he came from and how important it is to represent himself and his sport to the best of his ability.
It was an endearing sight -- one I can only remember happening once before when President Bill Clinton was guest of honor at an event at Fitzpatrick’s Hotel in New York, and like last Monday the kitchen staff streamed out to get their photographs taken with the president.
Harrington showed the same unbelievable patience and goodwill towards everyone. Outside, Harrington’s driver had waited for over 90 minutes for his famous passenger.
Harrington, however, was not going to deny anyone their last chance at an autograph or personal photograph and stayed until the last signing was done.
Along with Bono, Harrington is probably the best-known Irishman in the world. In both men, Ireland truly has great representatives on the world stage.
Harrington on: Tiger, Nerves
So what is it like to be walking up the 18th green in a major championship beside Tiger Woods and the whole world watching?
Harrington says it does not faze him at all -- and one can well believe it.
He says if he has made all his mental preparations and believes he is about to do the best he can do then he will not feel any pressure whatsoever.
If, however, he has found himself short on preparation and unable to feel 100%, he says that is when his game comes apart.
He notes there is a profound difference between confidence instilled by others, clapping you on the back, and the internal kind of confidence that can only come from preparation and commitment.
Harrington had a series of frustrating runner-up finishes before making the big breakthrough in the British Open in 2007.
His confidence was such that he never lost sight of his abilities and his determination to make it in the big time.
Despite having a great two years when he won three majors, Harrington took his game apart again for this year and was foundering in the early months. Only later on did he suddenly find the rhythm that made him famous.
Harrington acknowledges that golfers in their twenties have an edge on physical fitness, but that can be offset by the mental preparation that older golfers go through.
He also says that golfers on the tour are like people in any walk of life -- some have great talent but will never reach the top because they don’t work hard enough, others have little natural talent but make up for it to some extent with an incredible workload.
He admitted that when he started out golfing his goal was to make it as a journeyman player on the European circuit. Of course he has gone far further than that, but one gets the sense that Harrington has kept himself very firmly grounded throughout all the highs and lows.
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