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'It's something we'll always have as a family. A dream come true'

After a difficult three years, Shane Lowry ended his long wait for a fourth career victory on Saturday. He tells The42 why it meant the world to him.

WHEN SHANE LOWRY sat in the boardroom of his Dublin-based management company’s offices before Christmas, he cut a relaxed figure. At ease with himself, his game, and, tellingly, with family life off the course.

Only just home from a long, season-ending stretch, it would have been easy for Lowry to vent frustration. His move to America didn’t work — ‘it was a failure’ — and he ended 2018 having lost his PGA Tour playing rights. It was now three-and-a-half years since his last win too.

Abu Dhabi Golf Lowry ended a three-year wait for a fourth career win last weekend. Source: Kamran Jebreili

But the Offaly native was in a good place. It was obvious from his body language, his humour and energy. Lowry, for the first time, was eager to get back on the range and hit balls over the Christmas period. He hadn’t locked away his clubs as he had done in previous years. 

It was all positive, despite his obvious on-course struggles. Lowry spoke about, among other things, Christmas at home with his wife, Wendy, and young daughter, Iris. He joked about how his life had changed irrevocably since becoming a father just under two years ago. 

“My wife wants me to dress up as a Santa,” Lowry laughed. “I’m not sure, but we’ll see.”

A couple of days later, evidence surfaced on social media. Shane Lowry, resplendent in a white beard and red suit. He looked the part, anyway; ‘the things you do for your family.’

Fatherhood had changed Lowry’s life, for sure, but also his perspective. And motivation. A bad day on the course was quickly forgotten when he got home, and equally a good day meant the world when he could enjoy it with those who make it all worth it. He wanted that more than anything. 

“I’m very lucky to make the money I do and provide the life for my family that I do through golf,” he said during our conversation. “I see it as providing a great life for my wife and kid and that’s what it’s all about for me — but I want to win as much as I can and for the girls to be there when I do.”

Everything Lowry spoke about that day — his swing feeling good, the need to start 2019 in positive fashion and the desire, the dream, to win in front of his family — were in his plans for this season. He had no hesitation in declaring his goals, because he did so in absolute confidence that he could achieve them. 

It’s not in Lowry’s nature to shy away from it, but it’s another thing entirely to go out and deliver on those aspirations. Particularly when the wounds of past failures were still raw. 

So when he conjured a sublime three-wood from the heart of the 18th fairway on Saturday afternoon, his 281-yard approach arrowing perfectly towards the target to finish on the upper level of the putting surface, it was a start to the year Lowry could barely have scripted any better.

And then, as he safely drained the 18-inch birdie putt to clinch victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, he turned, held out his arms and in that split second, the Offaly native’s dreams had come true. Better than he could have ever imagined. 

“It was just amazing,” he tells The42, still finding it hard to process what happened last week. “Winning is amazing, but to have Wendy and Iris there… it’s all I’ve wanted for the last two years.”

gettyimages-1096511788-594x594 The Lowry family: Wendy, Iris and Shane. Source: Ross Kinnaird

The pictures of Lowry and his young family on the 18th green are beautiful and truly capture the unadulterated joy of the moment. Iris, two in March, naturally stole the show as she ran on towards her victorious father, but they would have it no other way. 

“That was the best part,” he smiles. “From day one, since we’ve had Iris, that was what I always wanted. It was amazing to have them here. I’ve seen loads of pictures from papers back home. It’s dream come true stuff.

“I was just so happy to have them here and just so grateful I could win and have them here when I won. It’s something that we’ll always have as a family. We’ll always have the pictures, we’ll always have the memories and hopefully, I can get a couple more while I’m at it and create more memories along the way.”

If there was any doubt as to how popular a winner Lowry was, the reception he received upon arrival at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai yesterday spoke volumes. Fellow players, caddies, officials and European Tour staff all made it their business to congratulate him. They knew what it meant to him.

Make no mistake about it, the last three years have been difficult for Lowry. Since his remarkable win at the WGC Bridgestone in August 2015, there were times he wondered whether he’d ever win again. Sleepless nights, he thought about it every day. Doubts crept in, no more so than after he let victory slip at the 2016 US Open.

But using that past heartbreak to his advantage last Saturday, Lowry was able to draw on a powerful weapon to dig deep and ensure there was to be no near-miss or hard-luck story on this occasion. This was his time, his day.

“I’m not sure it’s sunk in,” he admits. “I just keep finding myself every now and again turning around to Brian [his manager] or Wendy and saying ‘I just can’t believe I did what I did on Saturday.’

“It felt like I came back from, not the dead, but I was almost gone. I’m over the moon, but it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Winning is never straightforward, and Lowry — despite it being a wire-to-wire victory in the books — had to do it the hard way. His three-shot lead over South African Richard Sterne had evaporated over the opening four holes of the final round, and he then stood on the 12th tee looking at a leaderboard which showed him four shots behind. Painful memories of Oakmont and Dustin Johnson must have come flooding back. 

Abu Dhabi Golf Lowry with his caddy during Saturday's final round. Source: Kamran Jebreili

But golf is a weird game, and having helplessly watched the tournament he had led from Wednesday slip from his grasp, Lowry found something from somewhere. Maybe it was from the confidence he had spoken about before Christmas, or the extra balls he had hit and gym work he had done at home, or the practice rounds he had played alongside Paul Dunne in Dubai. But, whatever it was, Lowry wasn’t losing this one.

It was in part down to his mastery around the greens as he reeled Sterne in and levelled the scores in what had become a two-way race with his final group playing partner, before he delivered the pièce de résistance with three-wood in hand on the 18th. 

Baltray, Vilamoura, Bridgestone, and now the Abu Dhabi Golf Club. A return to the winner’s enclosure, a return to the world’s top 50, a paycheque for just over €1 million and the position of European Tour Order of Merit leader. A perfect start to 2019.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a defining moment in my career but it’s one of the best things that has happened to me so far,” Lowry continues.

“Winning the Irish Open [as an amateur] was probably my greatest achievement and Bridgestone was huge, but this was different. I don’t know, something feels different. It feels better, I don’t know why.

“Maybe it’s because the girls were there, or maybe it’s because I’ve had a rough couple of years. You have doubts and you don’t know if you have the balls to pull one off again. It’s a great feeling and I’m really happy.

It’s a great stepping stone. One thing I need to do from here now is reassess and kick on. It’s easy to sit back and enjoy, and obviously, I’m going to enjoy this one because you never know when the next one is going to be. I’m going to enjoy it, kick on and try and play some good golf to give myself more chances to win tournaments.

Crucially, it shapes Lowry’s schedule. The 2019 season suddenly has a different look and feel to it, and where he had originally planned to fit in events in Oman, Qatar and Malaysia, there are bigger invites now on the table; the WGC-Mexico, the Players Championship and the Dell Matchplay in America all await. 

Lowry’s 41st-place ranking also means he’s in a good position to earn his place at the Masters, USPGA Championship and Open at Portrush, something he placed high on the priority list in Dublin that morning in December.

“I’ve a great chance of having a really good year now and hopefully, there are big things ahead,” he says. “That’s where you want to be. It’s been a while [since he's been in the top 50] so I’m in the big events for the foreseeable future.

If you want to sit and eat at the top table of world golf, they’re the tournaments you have to be playing in. And I think they’re tournaments I can do well in.

After some quiet celebrations with family and friends in his rented house in Dubai at the weekend, it is very much back down to business for Lowry this week at the Desert Classic as he bids to build on his winning momentum. 

He’ll get his round underway on Thursday morning at 8.10am local time [12.10pm Irish] alongside the English pair of Matt Wallace and Tyrrell Hatton with a weight off his shoulders and the freedom to go out and chase another good week.

“Go out, play full of confidence, play with freedom this week and hopefully I can have another good one,” he adds.

“I’ve been up at the course today and I’ll put a plan together tomorrow and be ready come Thursday. I can go out and play with less pressure than I have been playing with for a long time now. That will hopefully lead to some more good golf.”

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Ryan Bailey

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