All in the Family
When it comes to the Harrington clan, prowess in sports naturally runs deep
They are believed to be descendants of the Hungerdells of County Cork,
Ireland Ñ a clan that goes back
centuries, long before the PGA Tour and the Detroit Lions and before their name transformed into 'Harrington.'
Padraig and Joey met at the Masters Tournament in April and quickly sized each other up.
'Well-grounded,' Padraig says of his cousin, the 'American' football player. 'Humble. Plays down his talents, quite relaxed about it. A nice guy to be around.'
'Very laid-back,' Joey says of Padraig, the golfer. 'Very positive guy. He had just missed the cut, and he was sitting there and laughing at dinner. A very likable guy. I can see why he has gained popularity in Europe. Very engaging.'
Padraig Harrington has risen to be the No. 1-ranked European and seventh-ranked golfer in the world at the age of 31. This week, he is playing in the U.S. Open and trying to win his first major championship.
No European has won the Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970. Joey Harrington, the Portland native who starred at the University of Oregon and now plays quarterback for the Detroit Lions at age 24, will be watching.
They are second cousins, once removed, but a Harrington is a Harrington. It is a family of literally hundreds linked by the homeland, Catholicism and sports. And two of the youngest are certainly the most famous, Padraig the latest king of Old World golf and Joey the quarterback who Lions fans hope can be their savior.
Padraig once played football Ñ Gaelic football, a cross between soccer and rugby Ñ and Joey tries really hard in golf. 'Can't buy a golf swing,' he once said.
The two playfully chirped at each other over dinner in April.
'He said he could throw a football better than I could hit a wedge,' Joey says. 'Well, I've been hitting my 52-degree wedge to about 15 feet, and he can't throw a spiral yet. Can he throw a 20-yard comeback?'
Joey professes to be an unofficial 10-handicap.
'I'd be interested to see how he hits it,' says Padraig, who claims to have thrown a partial spiral 30 yards at a barbecue last month. 'With his athletic ability, he should be able to hit it far.'
The ribbing went on. 'For some reason they were knocking American food,' Joey says. 'Of all things, being from Ireland É '
And with that, the two sports stars, who live an Atlantic apart, had become instant friends.
Roots reach far
The Harrington family farmhouse in County Cork, in southwest Ireland, still stands. Padraig's uncle lives in it, and the Irish side of the family gathers there for reunions. Padraig's grandmother, Maggie, and Joey's great-grandfather, John, were sister and brother. The siblings separated when John and wife Mary Catherine moved to the United States.
John and Mary Catherine had five children, the oldest being John Bernard or 'Bernie' Ñ Joey's grandfather, who died last year at age 82. Maggie had 15 children, one of them Padraig's father, Paddy, 70.
That makes Joey's father, John Nicholas, 55, one of eight children, and Padraig, the youngest of five, first cousins.
Once Padraig and his wife, Caroline, have their first child Ñ nine weeks away, due the week of the PGA Championship Ñ the generations will match up.
The Harringtons are strewn from County Cork to Dublin to Boston, New York, Chicago and Portland. When Bernie died, 91 of the 92 immediate-family members attended the funeral, Joey says.
Padraig cannot keep track of all the family members in the home country. 'There's a huge number of Harringtons in Cork,' Caroline muses, 'and they all claim to be cousins.'
Joey, his two younger brothers, his father and four uncles all played quarterback at Central Catholic High School. Joey's father played quarterback under coach Len Casanova at Oregon. Upon hearing of Joey's birth, Casanova sent the tot a letter of intent, perhaps predicting success for the kid who would lead Oregon to its No. 2 national ranking in 2002.
Padraig grew up competing against his four brothers in all sports. He excelled at Gaelic football, following in his father's footsteps, but committed himself to golf in college.
Padraig had learned the sport at Stackstown Golf Club, a course his father and several fellow policemen built in the hills outside Dublin, a course just for policemen and military. He still plays there.
He aspired to be 'a journeyman professional' in golf and never envisioned being No. 1 in Europe, a two-time Ryder Cup member and someone capable of matching Tiger Woods shot for shot. 'All I wanted to do was beat my brothers,' Padraig once said.
A confirmed bachelor, Joey has never been engaged or married, and he stiff-arms such suggestions. His mother, Valerie, says Joey hasn't met the right woman Ñ a woman, no doubt, interested in a large family.
Joey has a condominium in suburban Detroit, a short drive from the Lions' practice facility in Allen Park. His father stopped short of calling him 'a mama's boy,' but Joey clearly cherishes time with his family.
Padraig and Caroline married in 1997. The two are having their dream house built in the hills outside Dublin, 10 minutes from Stackstown. They will use 2 1/2 acres for nine short golf holes and putting greens.
Caroline tells of meeting Joey at the Masters, as they shared a slip in the mud. Caroline calls Joey 'more shy than Padraig.' Joey shook hands with Padraig on the seventh fairway and was astonished that he would interrupt his round to meet him. 'It's like me turning around and talking with a family member behind the bench,' Joey says.
The 6-4 Joey has straight Ñ sometimes buzzed, sometimes fluffy Ñ brown hair and wears a helmet at work. The 6-1 Padraig has wavy black locks that are visible when he takes off his Wilson hat.
They are clearly Harringtons, Caroline says. 'They look alike, huh?' she says. 'All the Harringtons have the same shape of mouth.'
Career paths turn to sports
Joey was known as 'Joe College' at Oregon; he loved the college experience. He wore wigs to UO basketball games. He called himself 'a dork' and studied business management. He claimed the starting quarterback job his sophomore year, supplanting then-junior and current NFL player A.J. Feeley.
Joey orchestrated 11 fourth-quarter rallies and had the best record of any Oregon quarterback ever, leading the Ducks to 27 wins in 30 games.
The Lions selected him No. 3 overall in the NFL draft, and he wore his lucky No. 3, but Detroit managed only three wins last season. Joey had the worst passer rating among NFL starting quarterbacks. Enter new coach Steve Mariucci, another savior.
Bright, cerebral and committed to team play, Joey 'has a burning desire to win,' his mother says.
Padraig, a scratch golfer by age 15, climbed the ladder to the top of European golf slowly but surely. He studied accounting after prep school and turned professional in 1995. Wins came every once in a while, but not as often as grief.
His claim to fame? Nineteen second-place finishes, a piece of lore among the Irish, Scottish and English golf fans and journalists.
Padraig has made $12 million in golf, including $1.6 million this year, and his legendary hard work has certainly paid off. He concedes that the 'fear' of losing drives him much more than the quest to win, a flaw he says does not allow him to be content or happy.
'They call him the white Vijay,' says Caroline, comparing him to Vijay Singh, a noted workhorse.
At an early age, Joey's parents put him in piano lessons, and the boy actually enjoyed them. He developed an appreciation for music and lists Dave Matthews and Herbie Hancock as his favorite performers. He listens to the chords, not the words.
Padraig doesn't have this trait. He chuckles and says: 'I have no musical talent. It is in our family Ñ my brother can play the piano and sing Ñ but it did not trickle down to me.' Like Joey, though, he would like to meet Eminem.
Joey also plays golf, of course, but he admits to an obsession with Ms. Pac-Man. He owns a Ms. Pac-Man machine and can play it for hours.
Padraig likes to play snooker and tennis. He doesn't like video games, although his new home will include a game room. Padraig's free time is usually spent at the driving range or on a putting green. Playing a video game, Caroline says, 'would be a waste of time, away from practicing golf.'
Joey has never been to Ireland, but he tentatively plans to go with his parents next summer and possibly stay with Padraig and Caroline. Joey's parents, John and Valerie, keep in touch with the relatives across the pond, and John has visited Ireland and met Padraig.
Padraig has never been to Oregon, coming no closer than Los Angeles. There, he watched one of Joey's Lions games on television. It was one of only two times he has watched him play the strange game of American football. He only heard of Joey once the Ducks won the Fiesta Bowl and his cousin got drafted.
'We don't get any American football in Dublin,' Caroline says, 'except for the Super Bowl.'
But Padraig's brothers don't let him forget his place in the Harrington order of things, often telling him 'you're only the second-best sportsman in the family.'
Joey says he watches Padraig 'every chance I get,' but he doesn't follow the golfer as religiously as Bernie did, or as intensely as Bernie's brother, Dan, does. John Harrington checks the Internet for Padraig's scores every weekend.
Padraig will play in 12 PGA Tour events as a special temporary member this year, and 18 next year as possibly a full member. He will play both European and PGA Tour events and help the Europeans try to defend their Ryder Cup title.
The 2004 Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 14-19 at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Ñ suburban Detroit. Joey Harrington, active in Ryder Cup ceremonies, will be able to watch his famous relative in person, and maybe Padraig Harrington will get to see his famous relative play an American football game.
'I told them they had a place to stay,' Joey says. 'I got a twin bed in the loft. Forget the Ritz.'
Says Padraig: 'I'm sure we'll catch up. But I'll probably stay at the Ritz.'