His success in the WGC Bridgestone Invitiational has made Shane Lowry a bona fide star of world golf, but followers of the European Tour will remember when he burst onto the scene in 2009, winning the Irish Open as an amateur at Baltray.
Before that, he enjoyed a phenomenal year on the amateur scene, winning the North of Ireland, the West of Ireland and the Mullingar Scratch Cup — and before all that again, he was just “The Birdie Man” to the Lowry family.
Shane’s uncle Seán is one of the best known of the three Lowry brothers that lined out for Offaly in the 1970s and 1980s, in no small part because of the memorable scene when the final whistle sounded at the end of the 1982 final, when Seán Lowry ran towards the crowd with his huge hands wrapped around the match ball.
Croke Park was a natural stage for the Lowry family then, and Seán always knew that Shane would be right at home when the big day came around as well.
“Certain people just love the big stage — I always used to love playing in Croke Park and Brendan played some of his best games there, which was always the sign of a good footballer.
“Shane always said that the real competition starts on the back nine on Sunday evening, so when you have three major winners on your tail, there’s nothing simple there and one bad shot or one unlucky roll and you can be out of it.”
Speaking to Midlands Radio 3 yesterday, Seán went on to say how he always knew that Shane had a special talent.
“We all knew he was capable of it, I’ve prophesised it from a long way back, but when it happens then, it’s just unbelievable. He’s a confident golfer, he never played for pars, we always called him the birdie man. He was only ever interested in birdies and I don’t think he lost that.
“That’s without being careless though. You saw that on 14 when he said he wasn’t going to go at the pin because he couldn’t stop it on the green. He had to go right of the pin and hole from 15 feet, which is what he did. He has matured a lot, his course management is very good but he has the hands as well.
“I always said to people that I never saw anyone like Shane, he always had that magic that, you might never know what it is, but you know it’s there. He has the hands, the lovely lazy swing, he was just different all his life, from the time he was 12 or 13.”
Several media outlets have been quick to highlight the strong sporting genes that gave Shane a head start, but Seán was also quick to avert a domestic dispute when he highlighted that there are two sides of Shane’s family.
“Ah look, if you were talking to Bridgie, Brendan’s wife, she’d say it came from the Scanlon side! But yeah, I’d imagine that there is a Lowry gene there that’s playing part, but it’s a mixture of both though, I wouldn’t like for the Lowrys to take all the credit!
“Shane worked very hard too, people don’t realise that. Willie Allen, the groundskeeper at Esker Hills, would tell you that all day long he’d be chipping and putting around the greens during the summer. When other lads would be messing about, he’d be working away on his game.”
The boisterous scenes at Esker Hills have become something of a viral sensation since Shane’s famous victory, and for Ray Molloy, manager of the club, it was simply because Shane has always been right at the heart of things in the local clubhouse.
“When the last putt went in, there were tears flowing in Esker Hills. He came in here as a young boy and played his way up and he still hasn’t changed. He comes back, wanders into the club and he’s just one of ours and we’re so proud of him” said Molloy.
“It was a night never to be forgotten, if a bigger one ever comes, I only hope I live to see it!”
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