No man is an island, not even in a non-team sport like golf and while Shane Lowry is not one to use “we” when referring to his achievements in the style of many of his counterparts in golf’s elite, the Irishman is not afraid to give credit where it is due.
There are many moving parts that contribute to a major championship victory and this weekend at Royal Portrush was no exception.
Naturally, the golfer is at the centre of it all but Lowry could not have succeeded without a strong and reliable support system he has built over his years on both the European and PGA Tours.
It was only 12 months ago that Lowry walked away from Carnoustie on that Friday evening having succumbed to a fourth successive missed cut. It marked the end of not only an unsuccessful week at the oldest major but a pivotal one in the way he would move forward from this low point.
Two years earlier he had been through the most devastating setback in his professionalcareer, his failure to hold a four-shot lead going into the final round of the US Open at Oakmont and the hurt of that moment stayed with him for a very long time.
By the time he reached Carnoustie, hisrelationship with long-time caddie Dermot Byrne had reached breaking point and Lowry sacked his friend after a first-round 74, the timing of which he has since admitted was a mistake.
Yet it also proved to be the catalyst for Lowry, who that week slipped to 92nd in the world rankings having peaked at 17, to recapture his own golfing personality.
He has gone from strength to strength since, winning in Abu Dhabi inJanuary and returning to the world’s top 50 and playing some of the best, most consistent golf of his career. Yesterday in the Portrush rain was the reward.
Lowry has always made his change of caddie about him rather than the man on his bag but the hiring of Ardglass man Brian “Bo” Martin, 46, who had previously caddied for Gary Murphy, PeterLawrie, Alexander Levy and Lucas Bjerregaard.
He is also the uncle of Cormac Sharvin, the leading Irish finisher at Lahinch in this month’s Irish Open.
They appear to be two peas in a pod, sociable lovers of life and the craic and since the pair have begun working together Lowry has made nosecret of the positive impact the Dublin-based scratch golfer has made to him and his game.
“Bo has been great for me over the last year,” Lowry said on Saturday night, “it’s like he’s given me a new lease on life. He’s so chilled. He’s sorelaxed. Maybe he isn’t inside but he definitely comes across that way. Hopefully we can do something special and enjoy it together.”
Lowry has been similarly glowing about Neil Manchip, the Golfing Union of Ireland’s National Coach, guru to elite amateurs and the new Champion Golfer’s right-hand man.
When Lowry admitted to unease on the eve of the tournament, it was Manchip who had the right words of comfort, reassurance and reinforcement during what has become a regular custom of a long chat over coffee. This time the setting was a quiet room in the Bushmills Inn last Wednesday evening and it served to calm the nerves.
“I think I find when we put everything out on the table and we talk about everything, scenarios, what could happen,” said of the dynamic between player and coach.
“And I think when I’m very open with him about how I’m feeling I think that’s when I can get the best out of myself and I think that’s what he does, he gets the best out of me that way by I suppose making me talk about how I’m feeling.
“I said to him on the putting green (on Saturday) morning, I said I cannot wait to get this first tee shot out of the way. That’s just how I’m feeling.
That’s the way I like to do things. When I’m nervous, I like to talk about it. There’s no point bottling it up. Because if I bottle it up I’m going to become too anxious or nervous.
"I like to talk about things. Neil knows more about me than anyone.”
All-Ireland winner Brendan Lowry and his wife Bridget have been constants in supporting their son throughout his amateur and professional career with Shane breaking off from his Open preparations last week to treat his dad to a 60th birthday outing at Adare Manor.
Yet marrying Wendy in 2016 and becoming a father with the arrival of daughter Iris a year later has given the golfer a proper sense of perspective when it comes to the ups and downs of life on Tour.
Which is why when asked about getting over the pain of Oakmont in 2016, he said winning a major “probably doesn’t mean as much to me as it did then”.
On Saturday following his third-round 63, Lowry added:
“I just felt at the time in Oakmont my golf just meant a lot more to me back then, than it does now. I’m not saying that it doesn’t mean everything, it’s my career.
"But I’ve got certain things in my life that make it different. I’ve got a family now. No matter what I shoot (on Sunday) my family will be waiting for me.”
Not even the wind and rain that swept through Portrush during Lowry’s final round yesterday afternoon could dampen the spirits of a crowd with seemingly most of the 45,000 fans following the Offaly man every step of the way.
The previous day, as Lowry shot a course-record 63 to take a four-shot lead they roared their approval at every shot, sang “Ole! Ole! Ole!” as he strode up to the 18th green and chanted his name repeatedly.
Lowry may be a special golfing talent but he is an Irish every man and that gives him a connection with these fans that few others can hope to make.
Such noise and expectation can make an athlete withdraw into their shell but Lowry has embraced it and loved every minute of it, his beaming grin on Saturday afternoon offering compelling evidence.
“Honestly, that’s the most incredible day I’ve ever had on the golf course. I honestly can’t explain what it was like. I said to Bo walking off the 17th tee, ‘we might never have a day like this on the golf course again. So let’s enjoy this next half hour’.”