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Shane Lowry makes his mark

the former amateur partner of Rory McIlroy notches his first pro win

Posted Oct 16, 2012 by Dermot Gilleece

shane lowry

When fierce winds caused play to be suspended for five hours during the third round of the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray, Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy had lunch together in the players' lounge. "We talked about his position at the top of the leaderboard,"  said the Holywood star, "and he knew I'd be the first to congratulate him on the 18th green if he succeeded in staying there. He was my foursomes partner for Ireland the last year I was an amateur and we won the European Amateur Team Championship together."

The player who would go on to become world number one, was as good as his word when the time came for congratulations in the miserable wet of late Sunday afternoon.  And he did it again, this time by text, when Lowry captured the Portugal Masters for his first tournament win as a professional.

McIlroy remarked: "Shane's strength is his ball striking, which is very good.  He used to hit a lot of cuts as an amateur but he went on to shape it right to left which gave him more length."  Reflecting on that memorable Sunday at Baltray, he added: "Watching Shane from the side of the 18th green was like being a nervous passenger in a car.  But I expected him to win.”

The Holywood star then became one of the first people to advise Lowry to turn professional immediately, so as to take full advantage of a handsome exemption from the PGA European Tour.  As it happened, the exemption actually lasted until the end of 2011, by which stage Lowry had secured his playing rights for this year by finishing 41st on the Road to Dubai.  In the meantime, he and McIlroy crossed paths again in memorable circumstances 16 months ago.  That was in the US Open at Congressional where, on his debut in the event, the Offalyman missed the cut while his former amateur partner was storming to a record-breaking victory. “If Rory hadn’t run away with it the way he did, I might have made the cut through the 10-shot rule,” he said with a wry smile.

Baltray proved to be hugely important in Lowry’s development as a tournament player.  “The first win can be a hurdle for a lot of guys but I knew from the Irish Open that when I got into contention I could go all the way,” he said.  “In fact even before Portugal, any other time I’ve been in contention, which admittedly hasn’t been all that much, I’ve gone for it.  You don’t tee it up on Thursday to finish fifth.  Or finish second.  You tee it up to win.”

Standing 6ft and weighing 16st, Lowry has what could be described as a comfortable shape.  “I do a lot of gym work, though you mightn’t think it,” he said with a totally unconvincing smile.  One suspected there was a lot more truth in his admission that he had “a good group of friends that I really get on with.  I enjoy their company.  I love spending time with them.”

Then he added: “The thing is, you say to yourself, ‘Right, are you fit enough to play four weeks in a row and not to be tired on the Sunday evening of the fourth week, if you happen to be going down the stretch?’  And I feel I am.  I just don’t want to change.  I’m happy in my own skin.  I’ve seen lads before who lose loads of weight, you know ..  Then lose their golf game.  And I think my golf game is good enough the way it is, and I don’t want to be changing things.”

In the event, Lowry’s biggest decision in the wake of the Portugal triumph will have nothing to do with physical fitness.  Prior to Vilamoura, he had firm plans to try his luck in the PGA Tour Qualifying School, but a second European win has brought a change of plan and he will now concentrate on achieving a world top-50 spot on this side of the pond.

At 25 and with a sparkling amateur career behind him, he has invariably displayed an ability to make the best of his golfing opportunities.  Which should make this latest target all the more interesting.

- Dermot Gilleece

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