The Claret Jug: priceless artefact, and home to ladybirds
PADRAIG Harrington might have won the title but the cute face that was reflected in the Claret Jug on Sunday night that will remain the abiding image of a brilliant 136th Open. They were features not unlike the Irishman's own, only thirty odd years younger.
Patrick, his son, stole the show, and made it a real Paddy's day. Credit to the Royal and Ancient's officials where it's due, they refrained from obsessing too much about protocol and allowed Harrington junior his own day in what was by then very pleasant - and overdue - Angus sun. Head green keeper John Philp's reaction might have been interesting to observe, but the hearts of everyone else melted as the blond-haired scamp scurried on to the green towards his father, not once, but twice.
In between, the television cameras had homed in on Paddy and his mum Caroline in the stands - at least, one of Paddy's feet, dangling where his head should have been.
His first invasion acted to underline that losing the title after a double-bogey at the last isn't the worst thing that could happen. The timing was perfect, and offered Harrington perspective as well as consolation. The next time he escaped the clutches of his mother, Caroline, it was to hail his father's stunning play-off victory. There can't have been a dry eye in the club house. Around the press tent, where supposedly sat hardened and cynical hacks, reporters blinked back tears. This fight was lost when the microphone picked up a line which won't be bettered anywhere this year. Eyes bulging at the sight of the elegant, silver Claret Jug trophy his father held, Paddy asked the only thing a three-year old could ask. "Dad, can we put ladybirds in it?"
After days of chat about double-bogeys and birdies, missed cuts and greenside bunkers, it was a wonderfully refreshing moment. Here was one of sport's most revered trophies, 134 years old, the holy grail for every golfer who ever swung a club, and the precious object of dad's desire for as long as Harrington senior can remember. In a moment, its significance had taken on new levels of importance. We can only imagine the youngster's reaction if dad had won the Masters, and been presented with a plain old green jacket.
Paddy's wide-eyed innocence proved another hit in the press tent later, when he joined his father at the table for the champion's briefing. Harrington Snr is rarely lost for words, but he struggled to get one in edgeways as Paddy tested the microphone umpteen times. "Hello", he would say, before wriggling and giggling in his seat with delight as his young voice peeled around the room. Stewart McDougall, the retiring press officer, was as patient as ever. And before long Paddy sat and listened to the narrative of his father's victory with such rapt attention he might have been hearing the latest Harry Potter adventure.
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