Lowry cashes in with new deals
IRISH OPEN hero Shane Lowry has signed his first six-figure sponsorship deal as a professional and joins Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Robert Allenby on the star-studded team at Srixon golf.
Lowry has agreed to use the Japanese firm's clubs and golf balls as part of a "multi-year contract" which underlines the global impact made by the Clara man's stunning victory at Baltray last May.
With an even bigger endorsement deal with a major Chinese corporation close to completion, Lowry (22) will go into his first complete year on the European Tour with a comprehensive portfolio of personal sponsors.
As an amateur, Lowry was unable to accept the €500,000 winner's cheque at the Irish Open but when one adds the worth of his contracts to the €238,000 he banked in his first 18 events as a pro, the Offaly hero has already passed the half-million mark.
Switching to a new equipment manufacturer is a decision which any golfer will consider carefully but Lowry reckons his deal with Srixon leaves him in a win-win situation.
After speaking at length to Stenson and Miguel Angel Jiminez about the Srixon ball last season and trying it out for himself during his visit to Japan in November, Lowry enthused: "They said it was as good as any ball out there, while I found it was better for me in the wind."
Srixon's decision to buy Cleveland last summer will also work to Lowry's advantage, especially now as new regulations limiting the grooves on the face of clubs above 25 degrees' loft come into force in professional golf.
"I'll play with Cleveland wedges," he explained. "Having tested some of them, I'm more than happy with that. Cleveland are famous in golf for their wedges and, with the new v-grooves coming in, I'm delighted to have them in the bag."
Though Lowry will wear a Srixon hat and glove, carry their branding on the bag and use their golf ball and Cleveland wedges, significantly, he's free to use any other clubs he chooses.
After achieving much of his amateur success, including that momentous win at Baltray, with Titleist equipment, Lowry cleverly persisted with the same clubs and ball as he made his transition into the paid ranks.
Yet Lowry and his backroom team at Horizon Sports Management in Dublin astutely resisted the offer of a 30-month contract from Titleist last May and instead signed until the end of the year -- leaving them free to negotiate a new deal at their leisure when all the dust settled.
In that regard, Lowry's sparkling end-of-season form in Asia certainly was timely. For example, he claimed a share of third place in November's Dunlop-Phoenix, a Japan Tour event with close links to Srixon's parent-company, SRI Sports of Kobe, as talks with the equipment manufacturer were coming to a climax.
With a lucrative sponsorship deal from China close to completion, Horizon founder and chief executive Conor Ridge said: "We set out from the start to build the ideal portfolio for Shane, at home and globally.
"I was criticised in some quarters last May when I played down suggestions that Shane would be able to sign endorsement deals running into millions in the middle of one of the deepest economic downturns in our recent history.
"Yet we knew all along that patience and hard work would be rewarded and that's exactly how it's turning out for Shane," he added. "What he did at the Irish Open was pretty special -- it resonated throughout the world of golf."
Mobile phone network '3', a company with corporate roots in Hong Kong, were among the first to come on board with Lowry.
He wears their logo on his collar, drives a top-of-the-range A5 provided by Audi Ireland, wears Footjoy shoes, represents his home club Esker Hills on Tour, is backed by IT firm 'Teligence Ireland' and is also supported by Atlas, a Dublin automotive company.
Add in Srixon and that unnamed Chinese corporation, reputed to be the fourth-biggest manufacturing company in their homeland, and you have a sponsorship package which will place Lowry on a par with many big-name players on the European Tour.
Though the ravages of the Irish winter has left him with precious little opportunity to hit golf balls in recent weeks, Lowry heads for Portugal with coach Neil Manchip and a few of his former amateur national team-mates on Saturday for a five-day stint which should hone his game for his return to Tour action in Abu Dhabi the week after next.
The Abu Dhabi Championship is the first leg in the European Tour's three-tournament Middle East Swing and, considering how well Lowry has settled into his new life, it'll come as no big surprise if he forces his way into contention on his first visit there; at the Qatar Masters or in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Weather-permitting, Lowry is scheduled to collect his 'Amateur Player of the Year Award' at tonight's AIB Irish Golf Writers Annual Banquet' at the Bankcentre in Ballsbridge, where he will once again rub shoulders with Rory McIlroy, the 'Professional Player of the Year'.