Eamonn Darcy watched Dubliner Paul McGinley join Ireland’s Ryder Cup heroes and admitted: ‘I knew the Irish would come up trumps.’
McGinley became the fourth Irishman to help Europe win the Ryder Cup after Darcy in 1987, Christy O’Connor Jnr in 1989 and Philip Walton in 1995.
Darcy said: “What a fantastic day for Irish golf. It’s amazing how it always comes down to an Irishman.
“It just shows you what a small country like Ireland can do. We can hold our heads up so high. We always come through right in the thick of it.
“It looked as if Niclas Fasth was going to get the winning point but it’s just ironic how it always happens to the Irish.”
Darcy famously beat Ben Crenshaw at Muirfield Village in 1987 as Europe won the Ryder Cup on American soil for the first time.
Then O’Connor Jnr saw off Fred Couples with that magical two-iron at the 18th at the Belfry in 1989 as Europe tied with the US to retain the Ryder Cup before Walton beat Jay Haas at Oak Hill in 1995.
And McGinley was aware that he could make it a poker of Irish aces. Just before he played his second to the 18th, the Dubliner saw the plaque commemorating O’Connor’s historic shot of 13 years before.
He said: “What is it about the Irish and the Ryder Cup? I don’t know. I hit my tee shot and it was about a yard away from where Christy’s plaque was in the fairway and said, ’Oh no Christy, don’t do it to me now’. But it was just fantastic. Christy has been a hero, ‘Darce’ has been a hero and that was my opportunity and I’m just so happy. To win has been great.”
Darren Clarke halved with David Duval and Padraig Harrington beat Mark Calcavecchia by five and four as Europe swept to an historic win.
But Darcy was delighted to see McGinley grab his place in the limelight.
Added Darcy: “Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke were phenomenal but I’m so proud of Paul. Paul arrived as a rookie but he really came of age. He has always been in the shadow of Harrington and Clarke but today he emerged on his own.
“I knew Paul would play well. He’s a very good golfer and he had prepared himself properly for it all.”
He joked: “I was over there most of the week and when I was talking to Paul and just told him, ‘When you are playing your singles, go out an play your singles like you were playing me for money'.
“That always motivates him because he never plays harder than when he plays me for money."
A candidate for the captain’s role at the K Club in 2006, Darcy gave credit to skipper Sam Torrance, his friend on tour for almost 30 years.
“I said at the start of the week that Sam Torrance was going to be the best captain and he proved it with his tactics on the last day,” said Darcy.
“I said his strategy was going to be good and he caught Curtis Strange off guard by putting his big guns out from the start.
“Phillip Price beating Phil Mickelson was fantastic and a wonderful effort. But it was great for the whole team.
“It all changes in matchplay. It’s man to man and you could see it with Tiger Woods. He doesn’t feel part of the team and feel a part of the whole Ryder Cup feeling.
“Every time the Irish have come up trumps. I did it in ‘87, or Christy at the Belfry in 1989 or Philip Walton at Oak Hill in 1995. Now we have McGinley in 2002.”
Darcy knows all about the pressure of the Ryder Cup and he admitted to feeling a little emotional as McGinley came down the stretch.
He explained: “The pressure Paul was under was enormous and it is nothing like a Major. I still miss it all but it makes you feel better that there is a new generation coming through for Irish golf.
“The Ryder Cup is just different. You get Jesper Parnevik coming through after an awful year to get a half with Tiger Woods.
“The Ryder Cup is a specialist thing and it’s a team effort. Sergio Garcia lost but he was out there rooting for the team afterwards. That’s the difference.
“Sam was so in touch with the players. He’s seen the pitfalls that guys like Mark James and Bernard Gallacher fell into. He is down to earth and could talk to all the players and he’s so enthusiastic.”
© Brian Keogh 2002