Ireland’s three-time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington, has been named by his fellow professionals as the inaugural winner of The European Tour Players’ Player of the Year Award for 2008.
Harrington, who successfully defended The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale before going on to capture the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, was honoured by his fellow Tour Champions and a cast of golfing glitterati at The European Tour’s Annual Awards Dinner at Wentworth Club on Tuesday night.
The new award was conceived by The European Tour’s Tournament Committee, whose chairman, Thomas Björn, was on hand as Harrington received a solid silver salver which will be presented annually to the outstanding player as selected by the Tour Membership.
John Jacobs, the Founding Father of The European Tour, made the presentation while Neil Coles, chairman of the Tour’s Board of Directors, was among a distinguished group of champions, past and present, who gathered in the Ryder Room at Wentworth Club to honour Harrington.
The salver, handmade by the craftsmen at the London workshop of Thomas Lyte Ltd, features a flower pattern decorating the award, denoting the national flowers of each of the countries who have a player competing on The European Tour.
The centre section features the unmistakable profile and swing of Severiano Ballesteros – the inspiration behind the Award – accompanied by an emotive comment by Jacobs paying tribute to Seve’s influence on The European Tour over the past 35 years, namely, “Seve’s supreme talent, flair and passion for golf inspired millions around the world”.
The trophy also carries the names of all European Tour Members who have won Major Championship since the formation of the Tour in 1972.
Renown artist Harold Riley has also created a book of sketches depicting Harrington’s remarkable Major-winning season. A replica trophy, which Harrington will keep, includes a central engraved picture of the Irishman, based on one of Riley’s sketches.
Harrington commented, “I am deeply honoured to be recognised by my fellow European Tour professionals, who have been worthy competitors on the world’s fairways and good friends off the course.
“I am delighted to receive this Award surrounded by so many great players and I would like to thank everyone who voted for me. I am sure the Players‘ Player Award will go from strength to strength and to be named as the first winner is very special indeed.”
Björn said, “Darren Clarke took the lead in driving the initiative from The European Tour Membership to recognise our fellow professionals each season through this prestigious Players’ Player Award. There is a special feeling about being honoured by your peers and our inaugural winner, Padraig Harrington, proved beyond doubt in 2008 that he is a truly exceptional champion.
“To defend The Open at Royal Birkdale and to follow that up with victory in the US PGA Championship – the first European to succeed since 1930 – was a truly remarkable achievement and helped Padraig clinch the award in the face of fierce competition from Robert Karlsson, who also enjoyed a tremendous year in which he claimed the Harry Vardon Trophy.”
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