Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

The Open: Irish golfers lose their inferiority complex

Ireland's Padraig Harrington celebrates after winning the Irish Open in 2007
Ireland's Padraig Harrington celebrates after winning the Irish Open in 2007

It's just eight years since The Open last visited Royal Liverpool but it was an entirely different age in Irish golf.

That week, as we looked back over 59 impoverished years at the Majors to the 1947 Open at Hoylake and Portrush man Fred Daly's solitary victory for Ireland, few dared even dream of the bounties that lay just around the corner.

It really felt back then as if Irish golfers were destined to fill the minor placings in golf's greatest events.

For the most part, Major champions were held in awe.

An inferiority complex developed down decades starved of success, convinced us they were a breed apart, made of different stuff.

It took a phenomenal leap of faith by Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie 12 months later to shatter that myth. Then the heavens parted and six more Major trophies came our way in the space of six years.

This week, four Major winners – Harrington, Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – feature among seven Irish samurai who'll step confidently into the oldest and greatest arena of them all at Hoylake.

If Shane Lowry or Michael Hoey have yet to place a hand on the Claret Jug, they no longer have any reason to think they can't.

While amateur Paul Dunne, just 21 and playing in his first Open Championship this week, is one of a generation of young players from this island who grew up knowing that Major winners actually walked the same fairways and graduated through the same GUI Championships as him.

Few in Irish golf have cause to get dewy-eyed looking back to the good old days. Harrington sparked the dawn of a golden age at Carnoustie.

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