Tears of joy at home golf club as Shane Lowry wins The Open
CO OFFALY’S Shane Lowry held his nerve amid harsh weather conditions to win the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush Golf Club yesterday.
On a day when others faltered around him, Lowry built upon his overnight lead to record a -15 final score – six shots clear of his nearest rival, England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
In pocketing the £1.56m purse and his first major title, the 32-year-old became the fifth golfer from the island of Ireland to hoist the famous Claret Jug and the last since Rory McIroy in 2014.
It capped a memorable week for Royal Portrush, which hosted the showpiece event for the first time since 1951, welcoming 237,000 spectators over the course of the week and entertaining a global audience of 600 million. The event also represented the largest sporting event ever hosted in Northern Ireland.
Lowry's father, Brendan, a celebrated Gaelic footballer and All-Ireland winner with Offaly in 1982, was handed the trophy by his son on the 18th green and described it as the best birthday present he has ever given him.
He said his own achievements paled in comparison's to his son's triumph.
"There's no comparison at all when your son does that," he said.
"It was my birthday last Friday, I was 60 last Friday, that's why he handed me the thing and said 'Happy birthday Dad'."
The Lowry family had gathered at the back of the 18th green to watch as the Clara man sealed his six-shot victory, while the 32-year-old was also congratulated by fellow golfers, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.
Brendan Lowry described the scenes as "mayhem" as thousands of fans charged down the fairway to savour the final moments of the Open's return to Portrush after 68 years.
"Padraig Harrington came in and he was like, 'Would you all stop crying'. That's what he said, everybody was crying," he said.
"That's what he dreamed about, like any young sportsman when they take it up they dream of things like that.
"What about winning the British Open in Ireland - you can't dream it, and in Portrush, which he likes too."
There were also scenes of unbridled joy at Esker Hills, Shane Lowry's home golf club in Co Offaly.
The new major champion's grand-uncle Thomas Newman was among the supporters packed into the small club on the outskirts of Tullamore.
He said his heart was in his mouth as Lowry inched closer to the win and despite a strong lead, was still afraid up until the final moments.
"He's wonderful, he's brilliant for this club," Mr Newman said.
"It's an absolutely huge achievement."
"Every time he steps in the door here he is treated like God here. It's as simple as that," he added.
Club manager Ray Molloy described it as "the biggest day ever at Esker Hills".
"We're just so pleased, we can't believe it. Shane said he was pinching himself coming up the 18th fairway, I'm still pinching myself.
"It's so important to a small community and a small golf course, for him to win the biggest golf tournament in the world this year and to win it so easily," he said.
"And to think Shane came here as a young golfer and learned his skills on the hills of Esker."
Mr Molloy's daughter Michelle likened the atmosphere to an All-Ireland football final day.
"The jerseys are out, the banners are out, the colours are out," she said.
"There's great excitement, and there's great pride in Shane and how far he's come."