Life

TV review: Shane Lowry's Open win and reception reflects the complex nature of our shared Irish and British heritage

The 2019 Open Champion Shane Lowry takes the Claret Jug to the home of the GAA at Croke Park. Picture Seamus Loughran
Billy Foley

Shane Lowry: Open, RTE 1, Monday at 9.30pm

Shane Lowry is one of those stories that you couldn't make up.

The Irish lad from a GAA family who found golf by accident and wins the game's greatest tournament on home soil. Just the second time in 148 years that the Open Championship is held in Ireland and just the fifth Irish winner.

And he does it when all the expectation is on Rory McIlroy, Ireland's greatest ever golfer who runs up an eight on the first hole and effectively puts himself out of the tournament before it has begun.

‘Shane Lowry: Open' told this remarkable story through interviews with this family, caddie, coach and friends.

It began at the age of nine at the local pitch and putt course in Clara, Co Offaly. There was sporting pedigree in the genes (his dad Brendan won an All Ireland in 1982) but no golfing background.

Lowry's interest in golf arrived at the same time as the Celtic Tiger and the boom in golf course construction. He joined the nearby and recently opened Esker Hills at the age of 12.

His mother Bridget said they knew nothing of golf and the first time Shane went to Esker Hills she dressed him in football boots.

His dad initially “hated” the game and refused to even go into the club when dropping him off.

But Lowry loved it and would spend long days playing by himself learning the sport which would bring him riches and fame. All he wanted to do was play golf and in his late teens his parents failed in trying to encourage a more active social life.

“At one stage I thought there was something wrong with him,” Bridget says with a glint in her eye.

The first sign of his special talent was a decade ago when he won the Irish Open, a European Tour Event, as a 22-year-old amateur.

He missed a three foot putt to win on the 18th at Baltray, but showing the resolve which would become a hallmark of his career, he won in the playoff.

There was brilliant archive footage of our hero marching through his home town holding the Irish Open trophy above his head and smiling broadly at the cheers of his friends and neighbours.

After a difficult start to professional life, he won for the first time as a pro at the Portugese Masters in 2012 and three years later had one of the biggest wins of his career at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.

But the following year he failed his first test at the highest level when he crumbled under the pressure of leading a major championship. Lowry led by four going into the final round of the US Open at Oakmont in 2016. He shot a 76 and finished joint second.

Devastated, he went into an extended slump and after missing the cut at the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie he wept in his car.

And so we came to The British Open at Portrush last July, an occasion filled with sporting and political significance.

The championship hadn't been held in Northern Ireland since before the Troubles and here was a southern Irishman being cheered to the rafters as a home town winner.

Again taking a four-shot lead into the final round, this time Lowry dominated and won by six amid spectacular scenes of celebration.

It was another lesson to us about the unique and complex nature of our shared Irish and British heritage on this island and the power of sport to bring us together.

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