Ryder Cup 2021: Shane Lowry on 'incredible' journey from fan to player

Shane Lowry loved being a fan at the 2006 Ryder Cup on home soil at The K Club but, even in his wildest dreams, he didn’t think back then that he’d be inside the ropes himself one day locking horns with the Americans in golf’s top team event.

Shane Lowry, Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood, captain Padraig Harrington, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood of Team Europe walk to the gate with the Ryder Cup trophy before departing Heathrow Airport ahead of the 43rd Ryder Cup. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

“I went with a couple of members of my golf club,” said Lowry as he recalled his first live experience of a Ryder Cup, which produced a record 18.5-9.5 win for a European team led by Ian Woosnam and including Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke.

“I don’t even know how I got a ticket. I just remember going there. I was 19 at the time and, obviously, hugely into my golf. I was a pretty good amatuer. I went and experienced the whole thing and it was incredible. It’s bigger now than it was then, too. So I’m so excited to see the grandstands, the first tee and all that jazz.”

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Ever since he won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009, Lowry looked destined to play in this event. It’s taken a bit longer than many expected, but he’s here now and those memories from 2006 have been flooding back.

“The K Club was an incredible experience and, if you had asked me walking into the course that day if I’d ever be competing in one, I’d have laughed,” added the 2019 Open champion. “It’s incredible I’m part of it now.

“Will I think back to it on the first tee? God knows what I’ll be thinking walking onto the first tee. I’ll just think about making contact! All that stuff is exciting. I wonder if it could get much more difficult than the first tee at Portrush (scene of his Claret Jug win) on the Sunday? I’d probably say no, but I might know more this week.”

He is taking comfort from the fact that the Irish have a tradition of feeling at home on this stage. “I feel there is something about the Ryder Cup and the Irish that goes hand in hand,” said the 34-year-old Clara man. “Going back to Christy O’Connor jnr, Eamonn Darcy, Philip Walton, Paul McGinley, Paddy, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy now.

“He’s been part of the European team for 10 years and, hopefully, I can add to that this year and be one of those. A lot of Irish players have holed winning putts and stuff. I just hope I can deliver a few points and be myself and enjoy the whole experience while winning the Ryder Cup. That’s the main goal.”

Shane Lowry wife Wendy pose with the Ryder Cup Trophy before departing Heathrow Airport. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

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Lowry had a place on the European team in his sights the moment he won the 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the goal became even bigger after he then landed that major breakthrough in Northern Ireland.

Helped by a tie for fourth in this year’s US PGA Championship, coupled with a strong Open defence at Royal St George’s, it’s been job done, though he ended up having to rely on a captain’s pick after being pushed out of one of the automatic spots by Bernd Wiesberger in the final qualifying event.

“I’ve known all along he wanted me in the team, but he wanted me to make the team,” said Lowry of his compatriot and friend Harrington. “It’s not that I gave them no choice, but I feel personally that, no matter who was captain, I would have got a pick.

Shane Lowry was among the home fans cheering on Paul McGinley and Padraig Harrington during the 2006 Ryder Cup at The K Club. Picture: Harry How/Getty Images.

“I’m not one that bigs myself up or talks about myself, but I felt I’d played good enough to make it whether it was Paddy or whoever that was captain or not. I feel I made the decision somewhat easier for him. Making it was No 1 preference and I didn’t. I was probably as close as you can get without doing it, so that probably made up their minds.

“I’ve played solid over the summer. I’ve been there and done it in big events and I love the big stage. I feel I can go to Whistling Straits and deliver. That’s what they want and, hopefully, I can get points for Europe.”

While delighted to have made it to Whistling Straits, Lowry is now determined to deliver for Harrington as Europe defend the trophy and bid to make it eight wins in 10 matches against an American side being led on this occasion by Steve Stricker in his home state of Wisconsin.

“As he is my mate, I definitely wanted to make the team even more. But now I’m in it, I want to make sure we want it for him because he deserves to win it,” said Lowry. “The career he has had, he is one of, if not the, best sportsman to come out of Ireland. So I want to win for him and that’s what it’s all about.

“All summer it’s not been about just making the team. It’s been about going to Whistling Straits and winning. In my own head, that’s how I’ve been thinking. It’s going to be difficult, the Americans are strong, but I feel we have assembled a good team and an experienced team that is playing good golf. I’m excited about it.

“There’s going to be a big American crowd as not many can travel from Europe, so, hopefully, we’ll get as many as we can that live there and try to win.”

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