Following Shane Lowry’s admission that he can’t decide which achievement is his greatest – triumphing as an amateur at the 2009 Irish Open or winning The Open Championship at Royal Portrush – we asked a group of Irish golfing experts if there is a definitive answer.
How hard can it be? Like the Champion Golfer of the Year, our panel also struggled to reach one conclusion…
Greg Allen, Golf and Athletics Journalist – RTE
Shane Lowry winning the Irish Open was I’d say somewhere between 300-1 and 500-1. Winning the Open, as a player ranked 33 in the world was probably between 50-1 and 100-1. Add on his advanced knowledge (by comparison to the rest of the field) of Royal Portrush as a former Northern Ireland Championship winner, that actually made him one of the most significant ‘outsiders’ who were not in the world’s top ten.
Having said that, which is a bigger achievement? You had to be in Baltray to grasp a sliver of how ridiculously improbable the events of that whole weekend were. An amateur who shot 62 in the second round of his first European Tour event and then holds off the field in a weekend of wickedly bad weather. Utterly comic book fiction. The Open win, by comparison, was not at all improbable.
But the fact that it happened on the island of Ireland where The Open was being staged for the first time in 68 years, and he won by six shots meaning he could fully celebrate his victory walk down the 18th. That cocktail of unlikely circumstances allied to the class and style of his victory, really equalises the two achievements.
But ranking one over the other – why even try. Just acknowledge that Shane Lowry has had, in a five-win career, two of the kind of experiences many of the world’s top ten ranked players would be happy to have in a lifetime.
Verdict: I can’t separate them. Sorry!
Phillip Reid, Golf Correspondent – Irish Times
The 2009 Irish Open success was remarkable and career changing in that he earned his full European Tour card, even if not being able to take the first prize cheque.
But, The Open win is life changing given the size of the pay cheque and the exemptions into the Majors going forward. Players define careers by Major wins, so Lowry is now up and running in that context.
Verdict: In my opinion I believe The Open win must be the greater achievement.
Alan Kelly, Communications Manager – Golfing Union of Ireland
I’m not surprised that the man himself can’t decide which achievement is better!
Personally speaking, both were very special. I’ve known Shane since around 2005, coming into the GUI panels and playing in our championships. His win at County Louth on that wet and miserable day in May 2009 was just spectacular. His determination and grit to win his national Open while still an amateur, having won the Irish Amateur title the previous year, was simply spellbinding television.
The same can be said of his Open win at Portrush.
He came in under the radar a little beforehand but had proven himself as a winner on the Dunluce Links previously. Such consistent shooting in The Open during the first two rounds was impressive, and then his performance on Saturday just caught the attention of the island of Ireland in a way that only live sport can.
Holding it together on Sunday, making one of the best scores of the leading players and winning by such a margin in front of a home crowd, it certainly is up there in terms of sporting achievement.
Ranking them is futile in my opinion.
Let’s just enjoy them for what they were. Incredible scenes that put our great sport front and centre across television, radio and print media. The moment should be revered and cherished.
Golf is a captivating sport and what Shane has done on both occasions is remind the public just how good it is.Verdict: Like a father being asked to choose his favourite child, it’s a decision I could never make
Brian Keogh, Freelance Golf Writer – Irish Sun, Golf Digest Ireland, Irish Independent, Global Golf Post
While winning the Irish Open as an amateur was an immense feat, winning golf’s oldest Major Championship in such impressive fashion in front of his home fans must go down as one of the greatest Irish sporting achievements of all time and Shane’s greatest.
Verdict: The Open Championship takes it for me.