‘What I learned from Padraig Harrington’

Published 4:17 pm Monday, August 25, 2008

There were probably 200-300 people at White Oak golf and equestrian community for the events that day, which included lunch, photos with Padraig and a great golf clinic which he did for all the guests afterwards out on the new Driving Range. I was very impressed with how much has been done at the course with so much sod and sandtraps in place; Mr. Palmer&squo;s team has done a great job. &bsp;

After standing in line for a while I finally got my hat signed by &dquo;Paddy&dquo; and my picture taken with him! Then, we all went out to the range to watch.

Padraig Harrington, of course, has a very Irish accent which made some words hard to understand, but he still teaches the simple facts of the golf swing better than anyone I&squo;ve heard.

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This biggest lesson was that golf is a simple game with simple mechanics that most people complicate too much, and watching him swing makes you realize this. He said that too much attention is on the parts of the actual swing and not enough on basic posture, alignment, grip, setup and shot selection, all the pre-shot stuff that takes no athletic ability but is 75 percent of a good golf shot.

He showed us his stance: feet not too far apart and exactly parallel with the target. He made a great point that grip pressure is as important as anything and that the left three fingers should hold most of the club; the right hand grip should be very light (this advice is for right-handed players of course). &bsp;

He also said that most amateurs worry too much with keeping their heads down throughout the swing, this prevents full turning through the backswing and causes a bad swing plane. The head (and chin) should be well off the chest and slightly turned (but still) to stay out of the way. &bsp;

The posture should be upright with the weight in the middle of the feet, not too much front or back. You should set up like any other athlete, Harrington says, in an active ready position (tennis, football, etc.).

Padraig showed us how his swing speed stays the same on all shots; he only varies the length of the swing. Tempo and timing are the most important parts, and the pros who have the slowest-looking and easiest swings (like Harrington and Ernie Els), actually have the highest clubhead speed, because all their movements are in perfect synch and coordinated. &bsp;

His great swing advice to us juniors was to swing hard and hit the ball as hard as possible without losing rhythm and balance. It&squo;s much easier to make a long hitter straight than vice-versa (I think Jack Nicklaus&squo; teacher said the same to him when he was 13).

Padraig Harrington is definitely one of the greatest golfers I&squo;ve ever seen (slightly better than my dad) and he has such a beautiful swing that he is easy to learn from.

More importantly, I was impressed by how &dquo;normal&dquo; and nice he was and how patient with so many people wanting to get pictures and autographs. He smiled for everyone (especially us kids) and really seemed to appreciate the attention and enjoy being here. That is another good lesson for us. &bsp;

We are sure proud to have him as part of our community and I think he feels that same way. This day was a great experience for me and I hope I get to see him again.

William Trakas, 13, is a rising 8th grader at Polk County Middle School and a member of the school golf team.&bsp; During the summer William spends 6‐7 hours a day with his buddies at Tryon Country Club, a great source of relief for his parents, Dean and Kelly Trakas.&bsp; In addition to 27 ‐ 36 holes most days, he also plays in area junior tournaments, has won several trophies, including TCC Junior Championship, and carries a 3 handicap. However, his Dad says he still needs to develop a rainy day hobby!