Padraig Harrington is offering millions of euro worth of advertising space to the highest bidder after a family tragedy put his recent golfing troubles in stark perspective.
The 40-year old Ryder Cup star and three-time major winner might have fallen from third to 87th in the world over the past three years, but he admitted in Florida yesterday that his sporting struggles mean nothing after his wife Caroline’s first cousin was paralysed for life following a recent road traffic accident.
Father of three Gerard Byrne, a 35-year old painter and decorator and the eldest son on Caroline Harrington’s aunt, has been told that he will never walk again after his car hit black ice and skidded off the road in a single-car accident near his Monasterevin home the week after Christmas.
“This is why I never want to complain about golf,” Harrington said in Palm Beach Gardens yesterday, where is playing alongside Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in this week’s Honda Classic on the US Tour.
“Obviously Gerard will need a lot of assistance in his life - a wheelchair enabled car, renovations to his home and other things - so my current sponsors have agreed to allow me to offer all the branding on my clothing and bag to the highest bidder for three tournaments in March and April.
“If somebody wants to have their branding on the front on my hat or if they want the golf bag or any other place, it’s up for auction for that three week spell when I am playing the Shell Houston Open, the Masters Tournament and the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.
“We already have a bid of €100,000 for the front of my cap and €50,000 for the space on my chest. I am auctioning all my spots for that period and all my sponsors have agreed to give them up. It’s all for charity.”
Harrington signed endorsement deals with Wilson Golf and FTI Consulting reportedly worth a combined $20 million at the end of 2008. His relationship with FTI Consulting ended in December but he still wears the logos for Wilson Golf, the R&A, Special Olympics and GoS Networks amongst others.
“When Padraig raises the money it will be put into his charitable foundation and then given to Gerard,” Caroline Harrington explained. “The Masters is a huge opportunity to raise money because it is the most watched sporting event in the UK and Ireland for sponsorship.
“We don’t know what the family will need yet but the idea is to try and raise as much money as possible and members of Gerard’s family are organising other fund raising events such as golf day at Craddockstown on May 5.”
An avid golfer and the father of three young children - twins Jake and Casey (3 years) and Holly (2) - Mr Byrne was running errand for his wife before going to play golf when his car skidded on black ice and crashed off the road into a field.
“There were no other cars in the scene bar one and they called the fire brigade,” Mrs Harrington explained. “It took them an hour to cut him out of the car. There was no other car involved. He actually thought he was dead. He thought he would never see his kids again. He could actually feel the life draining out of him. He said he had made his peace and thought that was it.
“Apparently the emergency services were unbelievable and kept him taking about his kids all the time, just trying to keep him alive.
“They got him out and brought him to Naas General Hospital and he was quickly transferred to the Mater and he’s now in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dun Laoghaire. He broke his collarbone and a lot of ribs but he is paralysed from the C6 (vertebrae) down, which means he has full use of his arms but will never walk again.”