Brendan Lawlor: ‘One in a million’ golfer blazing a trail for others to follow

Not that the situation is holding Lawlor again in any manner — fairly the alternative. Three years in the past, the Irishman was ending school and considering what the longer term may maintain for him. Now, he’s a skilled golfer who’s captivated with breaking down obstacles for disabled athletes.

At the top of August, Lawlor turned the primary golfer with disabilities to compete in a European Tour occasion, participating in the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry in England.

Having competed towards main winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer, in addition to former world No. 1 Lee Westwood, Lawlor is now hoping to pave the way in which for extra disabled golfers to strive their hand towards the world’s finest.

“I’m constantly setting myself goals literally every year, every tournament,” Lawlor informed CNN Sport. “And I’m really proud to promote disability golf and I have visions of how far I can go, and it’s amazing that things are going on at the minute.

“But I simply need to hold that ball rolling for myself however for different folks coming ahead to making an attempt to make that trail line to give different folks possibilities and hopefully get the sport to a excessive degree the place perhaps folks can earn a dwelling out of it. That’ll be a true aim for me.”

Lawlor plays in the Australian All Abilities Championship in 2018.

An introduction

Growing up in Ireland, it was Lawlor’s grandfather Bill who first put a golf club in his hand and instilled in him a love for the game.

“My granddad, Bill, is a big, big advocate for golf. He completely loves it,” Lawlor explains. “And none of his different grandchildren performed so some folks say I used to be his favourite as a result of I performed.

“My granddad had a golf club in my hand since I was four. I’ve always had his garden sort of like fairways and put the flag at the bottom of it. He flat out [keeps] sending emails to people. He’s a proud grandad and he definitely found a love for the golf for me.”

Like many youngsters his age, Lawlor graduated to enjoying pitch and putt — a shorter format of the sport which usually takes place solely on par-three holes.

Fellow Irishmen Pádraig Harrington and Shane Lowry — each main winners — additionally minimize their tooth at pitch and putt earlier than shifting onto full-length golf, and Lawlor is hoping that the talents he realized in the shorter format of the sport will stand him in good stead in the longer term.

“In Ireland, pitch and putt is nearly a culture and a start for golf. And it really does stand you because you have quite a good short game starting off and you really need to rely on it when you’re not hitting as many greens and your style and all that sort of stuff.”

Lawlor poses with Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy.

Finding his ft

After graduating to a full-length golf course, Lawlor spent hours enjoying with associates, to the purpose the place he was competing at a excessive degree in Ireland.

“I played in local teams and local clubs in Ireland and got myself down to single figures pretty quick. And then I was playing guys off plus two, I was off one or two myself.”

The idea of enjoying incapacity golf by no means occurred to Lawlor. Whilst he realized that he was shorter in stature than most different gamers, Lawlor says that he by no means thought of himself “as any different” to any of his friends.

“When I turned 19, I came out of college and my auntie approached my mom and asked, ‘Would Brendan ever consider disability golf?'” he defined.

“And my mom never really said it to me because she might have thought I would have got insulted because I never saw myself as any different. I lived quite a normal life; I’ve done everything really normally. Then mom asked me one day and I said: ‘That’d be fantastic. It’d be such a great road to go down and experience different things.'”

Ever since, Lawlor has flourished.

Having gained the inaugural European Disability Golf Association (EDGA) Scottish Open in July 2019 — a 36-hole match performed alongside the Scottish Open and that includes the 10 finest disabled gamers in the world — he turned skilled two months later.

Lawlor is presently the world No. 4 for disabled golfers. He’s additionally competed in the ISPS HANDA Disabled Golf Cup, a match performed alongside the 2019 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, the place 12 of the world’s main golfers with a incapacity performed the identical course and circumstances as the professionals.

But Lawlor’s massive breakthrough got here when he turned the primary golfer with disabilities to compete in a full European Tour occasion earlier this 12 months.

Battling powerful circumstances and nerves, Lawlor posted a creditable opening spherical 84 and readily acknowledges the continual encouragement offered by his enjoying companions, European Tour regulars Jeff Winther and Richard McEvoy, all through his debut look.

“They were truly an honor to play with. They were so supportive even when things weren’t going too well; they were picking me up saying: ‘Right let’s birdie the next.’ And I thought that was great that they were so encouraging.”

Lawlor poses with the EDGA Scottish Open trophy after winning it alongside Bernd Wiesberger who won the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

Increasing the profile

Whilst Dustin Johnson pocketed $15 million for successful the FedEx Cup, prize cash in incapacity golf is a completely different ball recreation, with no purse in any respect on provide for some occasions.

Playing on the European Tour is a “great platform to promote” incapacity golf, in accordance to Lawlor, and represents a wonderful alternative to hopefully safe the way forward for potential disabled golfers.

“I think that’s going to entice more disability golfers and maybe turn it into a full-time job and get more professionals into it,” he famous.

No surprisingly, after his look at The Belfry, Lawlor obtained plenty of curiosity from different potential incapacity golfers.

“I think about 30 disability golfers actually got in touch with me through Instagram looking to get into the game and looking to join the European Disabled Golf Association,” he mentioned.

“And not just for the high level but for the mental side as well. It’s very important for people to get out with friends, play golf for three to four hours and take them away from the house or away from the video games or whatever they’re doing.”

Lawlor plays his second shot on the 9th hole during day two of the UK Championship at The Belfry.

Moving ahead

Although golf made a profitable return to the Olympic Games in 2016, incapacity golf has but to make the minimize in any Paralympics video games, one thing that till not too long ago remained simply a dream for Lawlor.

“To play in the Paralympics will be absolutely incredible and it wasn’t looking too good until last week, actually. I actually got a message from them under my Twitter saying: ‘Congratulations, Brandon’ and they’ve liked some of my stuff as well,” he mentioned.

“So hopefully that’s the foot in the door for disability golf getting into the Paralympics, because that would be absolutely incredible. There’s so many players out there, like amputees in America, there’s so many golfers out there with a disability that we could have a really, really competitive tour.”

And whereas he nonetheless has his personal ambitions and targets in his profession to fulfill — he desires to turn out to be the most effective incapacity golfer in the world — Lawlor can be keen to share his personal experiences with others.

“I’m just telling them to be themselves and enjoy it. I think most importantly, enjoy golf because there’s so many years we are focusing on trying to get to a level, sometimes you forget to enjoy the game. And I think enjoying the starting off is a huge, huge important factor.”

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