Eleven sports stars were up for the award but is was the happy-go-lucky Irishman and his strong, consistant play on the European Tour that swung the votes his way. Europe's dramatic win over the United States in the Ryder Cup last September no doubt helped in making a strong case for Harrington.
The list of others nominated for the award included soccer's Robbie Keane and Damien Duff; Sonia O'Sullivan from athletics; Gaelic football's Kieran McGeeney and hurling's Henry Shefflin; Irish rugby outhalf Ronan O'Gara; record winning jump jockey Tony McCoy; show jumping world champion Dermott Lennon and Sam Lynch from rowing, and Harrington's Ryder Cup teammate Paul McGinley.
Harrington is currently No. 1 on the Order of Merit list in the young 2003 season after winning the season opening BMW Asian Open this past November. He also went toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods at Tiger's own event, the Target World Challenge in December, and came out victorious.