Lawlor second at Australian All Abilities Championship

Brendan Lawlor in action in Australia

 

BRENDAN Lawlor produced a superb performance over the weekend to finish second in the Australian All Abilities Championship in Sydney and copper-fasten his position as one of the top disabled golfers in the world.

The 21-year-old member of Dundalk Golf Club was one of 12 players from around the world who took part in what was a tournament within a tournament as the disabled players teed it up alongside the professionals playing in the Emirates Australian Open at East Lake Golf Club.

Lawlor finished 10 shots behind Sweden’s Johan Kammerstad who blew the field away with a blistering final round that included five birdies but Lawor, who had started the day three shots off the lead in joint second place, held on to edge out Belgium’s Adam Wahbi and take the runners-up spot.

“It was the best experience of my life,” said Lawlor afterwards. “Playing in front of 5,000 people was incredible and when I put it into five feet on the last the crowd went nuts. When you shoot the same score as some of the pros you know you did okay.”

The disabled golfers played a 54 hole tournament starting on Friday and that was the only difference to the professionals competing for the Australian Open who began their 72 hole competition on Thursday,

Lawlor and his colleagues played off the championship tees and experienced the very same conditions as the pros over their three days of a competition that attracted huge media attention in Australian and saw the Louthman feature regularly on the television coverage of the event.

The Dundalk senior panel player got off to a great start in his opening round which he started off the tenth tee and, after parring his opening three holes, notched a birdie three at the 13th. He was leading playing his final hole, the par three ninth, but he double bogeyed to drop back to second, one shot behind Wahbi.

The second round on Saturday was much tougher for everybody as the wind howled across the famous Sydney links and made it a battle to survive. Lawlor followed up his opening round of 78 with an 85 but stayed second, just three shots behind new leader Kammerstad and alongside Wahbi.

The three leaders were grouped together in the final round and it soon became clear that Kammerstad was on fire and wasn’t going to be caught so Lawlor focused on ensuring he finished ahead of the Belgium which he did as he carded an 80 to Wahbi’s 83.

“I am disappointed with not winning but second on a stage like this is more than amazing. Just being here would have been good,  even if I had finished last.”

One of the purposes of this event was to increased the profile of disabled golf with a view to it becoming a Paralympic sport in 2024 but such was the successes of the event in Australia that there is now speculation that it may feature at next year’s Open Championship in Portrush.

Lawlor now heads from Sydney to Melbourne to take part in a Ryder Cup style event between Europe and Australia which will be part of the World Cup of Golf. Ireland will be represented at that event by Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne and Lawlor is looking forward to meeting the pair later this week.

ENDS

Lawlor ready to tee up with the pros in Australia

Brendan Lawlor

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is preparing for the trip of a lifetime in November when he will head to Sydney to tee it alongside the professionals playing in the Emirates Australian Open. Last year’s event included Jason Day and Jordan Speith and previous winners have included Speith, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Greg Norman.

Lawlor is among 12 of the top disabled golfers in the world who will be playing for the Australian All Abilities Championships alongside the professionals at The Lakes Golf Club as part of an initiative to help golf become more inclusive at all levels and also help the case being made by the International Golf Federation for the sport to be included in the 2024 Paralympics in France.

“This is the very first time it has happened,” explained Lawlor. “There was a display at the Portuguese Masters but nothing like this where we will be playing competitively in the same field as the professionals.

“Ours is a three day event, theirs is a four day event. But when the cut is made you will be paired with a pro-golfer and playing the same course,” added Lawlor who is travelling Down Under as one of seven European players in the field and with a huge incentive.

“If I win in Australia I can go to world number one so that’s my goal. I’m number three at the moment and getting to number one would be huge for me.”

Lawlor, who has Ellis-Van Creveld Syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs, is a member of the European Disabled Golfers Tour and although he only joined it late last year it didn’t take him to long to find his feet. This year he won in Portugal, France and Czech Republic to shoot up both the European and World rankings.

“It’s been fantastic. The talent that’s out there on tour is amazing. I couldn’t get over it the first time I played. There were people with one leg and one arm hitting it 260 yards. You wouldn’t see able bodied people doing that.

“What helps me is probably competing at able bodied golf all my life and playing with Dundalk and also in Ardee at the start. I’ve played able bodied golf all my life and I knew I had the game and the confidence to succeed in it.”

Lawlor is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel which won the Leinster Barton Shield title, reached the semi-final of the Leinster Senior Cup and was beaten in the All-Ireland Barton Shield Final this year. He says that playing senior golf in Ireland has helped his game and contributed to his success on the EDGA Tour.

“The standard here is a little bit better than the standard would be out on tour. The best out there is really good, but at club level I’m competing against Caolan Rafferty off plus five and Aaron Grant off plus three so it doesn’t really get better than that. When you are going out there on tour, knowing you’ve been playing against Caolan or Aaron, it gives you confidence.”

Lawlor, who is 21, has only been playing golf for six years having started in pitch and putt because he didn’t think he would have the strength needed for the bigger game.

“I didn’t think I was strong enough at the start so I started playing pitch and putt and I got to the highest level in pitch and putt and won two All-Irelands. I was playing it week in week out. Then I started golf and was given a handicap of 28. I was down to 10 in my first year and I just kept plugging away and I am off one now. Put in the hard work and things will happen.”

That hard work is now reaping unthinkable dividends for Lawlor as he prepares to head to Australia and his date with the pros which will then be followed by a Ryder Cup style match between Europe and Australia in Melbourne.

“It’s a great buzz. If I stuck at able bodied golf my whole life I’d never get this opportunity so it is opening massive doors for me.”

He is hoping that the exposure disabled golf gets from playing alongside the professionals in the Australian Open will persuade the powers-that-be to allow the sport into the 2024 Paralympics as he would love the opportunity of going for gold in France in six years’ time.

“I am third in the world and I want to be competing in the Paralympcis,” stated Lawlor who along with another disabled golfer, Gareth McNeely, is currently trying to set up an Irish Disabled Golfers Association.