The Links at Union Vale golf course, situated in the rolling hills of Dutchess County, New York, played host three-time major champion Pádraig Harrington on Monday, August 20.
It is a dream of any major venue to be recognized by one of its own. Having Harrington visit and offer a clinic in addition to playing a round of golf at the course was beyond the wildest expectations of the Links membership.
The historic opportunity came about through a personal connection between Links member Joe Stapleton and Michael Clune, president of Chicago-based Clune Construction, a major sponsor of Harrington's charitable foundation.
Harrington arrived early at the golf course and was welcomed by a large enthusiastic attendance of Links members and friends, all eager to make his acquaintance. Following an extensive greetings and autograph signing session, he conducted a most informative and entertaining clinic of ball striking and putting.
Among his demonstrations, he executed the Happy Gilmore swing to perfection and delight of all. Adding some additional drama to his visit, he later played a remarkable round of golf, displaying his wizardry by tying an official course record from the back tees of 64.
He was joined in his round by representatives of the Clune Company and by Mayo native Tony Dunleavy (president, the Links), Pat Costigan (Tipperary past president) and Phil O'Meara, founding president of the Links who originally hails from Tipperary.
The day concluded with a reception and dinner in the Links’ clubhouse. Joe Stapleton of RIVCO Construction Company, who was instrumental in the arrangements, introduced Clune and Harrington who, during a question and answer session, provided detailed and insightful stories of his family, school and sporting activities.
He told of playing both hurling and football in his school days, no doubt influenced by his father who played Gaelic football for Cork, competing in two All-Ireland finals.
President Tony Dunleavy presented Harrington and Clune with honorary memberships to the Links. Also recognized were course architect Steven Kay and his senior associate, Doug Smith. Both were in attendance at the dinner.
Harrington thanked Clune for his sponsorship and all at the Links for the invitation and warm welcome, and gave great praise to the design and condition of the golf course.
Dunleavy thanked the general manager Teri Stellato and golf professional Pat Sullivan for their part in the day's program, and also Stapleton and Clune who were primarily responsible for making the event possible.
He expressed sincere thanks to Harrington for honoring the Links with his attendance, despite so much demand on his time, and wished him continued success in his great career.
Dunleavy noted that this was a day that will have lasting memories for all the members and will enhance the already glowing reputation of the Links at Union Vale.
"We were both thrilled and honored to have a golf champion such as Pádraig Harrington visit the Links and it will, no doubt, be an historic day that we will always remember,” Dunleavy added.