Laureation address – Padraig Harrington
Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws
Laureation by Professor Andrew Mackenzie
School of Physics & Astronomy
Tuesday 13 July 2010
Chancellor, it is my privilege to present Pádraig Harrington for the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.
Pádraig Harrington is, I am sure, known to you all as the leading European golfer of his generation. His CV glitters with some of the ultimate achievements for any professional golfer – two Open Championships, one US PGA Championship, five Ryder Cup appearances, the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit title and the 2008 PGA Tour Player of the Year award. In this of all months, I should mention that he also won the World Cup – the golf version, for which he and Paul McGinley ended a national wait of nearly forty years.
Impressive as these accomplishments are, Pádraig is defined at least as much by the manner in which they were achieved, and by his conduct since becoming a golfing celebrity. I would like to speak briefly about both.
Unusually for a modern European professional golfer, Pádraig had a long and distinguished career in the amateur game. A dominant performer for Ireland, he also played for Great Britain and Ireland in three Walker Cups, including a leading role in the famous breakthrough victory over the USA at Royal Porthcawl in 1995. Throughout that time, he combined golf with higher education, studying accountancy. His comments on the self-discipline and time management skills that his academic work brought to his life are music to the ears of any university professor. In fact, they should be inscribed in the clubhouse of every student sports team!
After turning professional, Pádraig’s rise to the top was steady rather than spectacular at first. Notable tournament victories such as his immensely popular 2002 and 2006 wins at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championships here in St Andrews were interspersed with a far greater number of frustrating finishes as runner-up. He never complained about those misfortunes, preferring to roll up his sleeves and work all the harder to improve his game. In the end it paid off handsomely, and he spectacularly disproved the old adage that nice guys are not winners.
What, then, of Pádraig Harrington the recent golf superstar? Well, he has come more into the public eye in interviews and as a public speaker. Such is his eloquence that when the case was to be made for golf to become an Olympic sport, he was chosen to go and present it to the International Olympic Committee in Lucerne. In addition to being patron for a number of charities he has also established the Pádraig Harrington Charitable Foundation, which has benefitted a host of worthy causes. He is tremendously generous with his time: just recently he thought nothing of spending seven hours selling his used golf clubs and signing memorabilia at an event that raised thousands of pounds for the Third World charity GOAL. He is a Global Ambassador for several organisations including the Special Olympics, and also works unstintingly in less public roles, helping people in need and raising funds for other causes, for which he seeks no recognition.
What Pádraig has not done is allow the fame to affect him. In an era of single-minded, sometimes one-dimensional professional sportsmen, he stands out from the crowd. His demeanour both on and off the course is that of a man at peace with himself, someone who takes nothing for granted and remembers to savour the good times. The best times of all are spent in the company of his family, wife Caroline and sons Patrick and Ciarán, who mean so much to him.
I hope you will all now appreciate why Pádraig commands such deep respect wherever he goes. I would like to leave the last word to his coach and mentor Bob Torrance, who said: ‘I always dreamed of coaching a player with talent and the drive to reach the top. From my first day with Pádraig, I knew he was the one. He is the best listener and the hardest worker I have met in over fifty years in the game.’
Chancellor, in recognition of his contributions to sport and to charity, I invite you to confer on Pádraig Harrington the Degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa.