Sunday 18 August 2019

The making of a Major champion: The eight key steps on Lowry's journey to Portrush glory

Shane Lowry celebrates after putting on the 18th green, the third play off hole, to win the 3 Irish Open Golf Championship. Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Lowry celebrates after putting on the 18th green, the third play off hole, to win the 3 Irish Open Golf Championship. Photo: Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry has been a professional for 10 years but his journey began long before he won the 2009 Irish Open as a 21-year old amateur. Here's a quick look at some of the key elements of his golfing career.

Eye of the tiger

Master professional Pete Cowen will never forget the first time he laid eyes on Shane Lowry when he led a coaching session as a consultant for the Golfing Union of Ireland.

"There were a lot of talented players at that first session but two of them stood out, a curly-head little kid from Holywood and a fat kid with glasses," Cowen said, recalling his first sight of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry at a coaching session in April 2005.

"I know a million kids that want to be great players but I don't know half a dozen that need to be great players," Cowen said, insisting he saw Lowry's desire to be great from the start.

"So you look them in the eye to see if there is that need to be the best. And in the top players you can see that need."

Stuttering start

Lowry was disqualified in the first two senior events he played as an amateur - signing for a wrong score in qualifying for the 2006 West of Ireland and then forgetting to sign his card at all in the Irish Amateur Open at Portmarnock a few weeks later.

Amateur dramatics

After taking up the game as a nine-year old, playing pitch and putt, Lowry went on to win the Irish Amateur Close at Cork Golf Club in 2007, the West of Ireland at Co Sligo, North of Ireland at Portrush and European Nations Cup at Sotogrande in 2008 as well as back-to-back European Amateur Team championships for Ireland in 2007 and 2008.

He was a certainty for selection in the 2009 Walker Cup until he won the Irish Open at Baltray and opted to turning professional.

Baltray breakthrough

Lowry burst onto the scene as a 21-year old in May 2009 when he became only the third amateur to win a European Tour title by capturing the Irish Open.

After opening with a 67 to trail Francesco Molinari by four shots, he shot a blistering, 10-under 62 in the second round to taker a two-shot lead at halfway. He then added a 71 to share top spot with Robert Rock going into the final round.

They closed with 71s to end up in a rain-lashed playoff which Lowry won with a par-five on their third trip down the 18th.

Asked if he'd at last managed to emulate his father Brendan, who won an All Ireland football title with Offaly in 1982, he said "You know, this is better. I don't know about anyone else but this is bigger than the All-Ireland for me."

From the back of the room a voice was heard.

"It's bigger for me too," his father said. "Of course it is. There can be nothing greater for a father than to see his son achieve something like this and Shane's uncles feel the same way too."

As an amateur, the €500,000 winner's cheque went to Rock but Lowry's mother Bridget won €15,000 after putting €250 on her boy to win each way at 250/1.

World fame

When he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2015, he achieved his dream of winning in the US and rose to 19th in the world, eventually reaching a career-high of 17th the following November.

"I always wanted to do it, even when I was 14 years old playing off 18," he said after he won the Irish Open, turned pro and then missed 10 of his first 20 cuts.

"Then I gradually started getting better every year and getting my handicap down. Then, all of a sudden, I got into the Irish Boys Squad, I was 17, 2005, I'll never forget that.

"I wasn't supposed to be on that panel - Rory (McIlroy) was supposed to be on it but didn't come, so I was put on as 14th man, won one of the trials, was second in the other, made the team and just kicked on from there really. Rory was 15 but was playing men's golf.

"When I was there, I realised this is what I always wanted to do and, thankfully, my parents let me do it. When I left school, all I wanted to do was play golf."

Coach

The Golfing Union of Ireland's National Coach, Scotland's Neil Manchip, has remained as Lowry's coach throughout his amateur and professional career, but he's as much a mental coach as a swing guru.

"I'm not very technically minded," Lowry said when he won in Akron four years ago. "The work I do with my coach Neil Manchip is quite simple. Hopefully, I can stay with Neil for the rest of my career and keep things going.

"If you look back over the last few years, I tried too hard at first to make cuts, didn't make them and then learned how to do it. Then I tried too hard to do well, didn't do well, then started. Tried too hard to win, then relaxed and won. This is just another step in my career."

Ambition

When Lowry broke into the world's top 50 for the first time in December 2014, he outlined his ambition.

"I am trying to leave no stone unturned and just kick on and I know I am in a place where I can do something special in the game, so I just need to do it now," he said.

Caddie change and Abu Dhabi boost

Belfast-man Brian "Bo" Martin became his caddie at the Portugal Masters last September and they have gone on to form a formidable duo.

Lowry opened with a 62 in his first round of the season in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and went on to win wire-to-wire and rise from 74th to 41st in the world.

Before arriving in Portrush last week they had one win, two seconds and another three top-10s from 20 starts together.

Irish Independent

The Throw-In All-Ireland Hurling Final preview: Can Tipp's firepower edge clash with the Cats?

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport