Brendan Lawlor is used to breaking new ground on the fairways and this week the Dundalk man will take another giant step on his remarkable journey when he becomes the first disability golfer to play in a European Tour event.
The Co Louth man (23) has a rare condition called Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, characterised by shorter stature and shorter limbs.
But that hasn’t stopped him turning professional and joining Ryder Cup player Tyrrell Hatton and LPGA Tour star Leona Maguire in Niall Horan’s Modest! Golf stable, earning an invitation to compete against Major winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer in the ISPS HANDA UK Championship at The Belfry this week.
“It’s just crazy,” said Lawlor, who is supported by Carton House, American Golf and adidas and yesterday became the first disability golfer to sign a professional club contract with TaylorMade.
“This week is a huge step forward for the inclusion of disability golfers in the game. I am not expecting to win the tournament but if I put two solid rounds together, which I know I can, I hope I will not be too far away from the cut line. It’s a massive ask but I love competing. I love to set goals and if you don’t set your goals as high as you can, sure where would you be?”
Ranked fourth in the world rankings for disability golf, Lawlor played in the Challenge Tour’s ISPS HANDA World Invitational Men|Women at Galgorm Castle last August, carding rounds of 78 and 74 to miss the cut.
“ISPS HANDA asked be to an ambassador and I was delighted they extended me an invitation this week to help promote the power of sport for everyone,” said Brendan, who turned professional late last year and joined Tiger Woods and Ernie Els in helping promote disabled golf at last year’s Presidents Cup.
Now he’s got a chance to compete against some of the game’s superstars with Lee Westwood and Ireland’s Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney also in the field.
“I always had the mentality to play at the highest level I could,” added Brendan, who has been paired with England’s Richard McEvoy and Denmark’s Jeff Winther for the first two rounds.
“I played Senior Cup and Barton Shield for Dundalk against very good players. I might not beat the Caolan Raffertys of the world, but if you are competing close to their level, it gives you confidence.”
He’s no stranger to pressure, teeing it up in disability events played alongside the 2018 ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf and last year’s Scottish Open, KPMG Trophy and DP World Tour Championship.
“Those were integration events where disability golfers had their own event within the event,” he explained. “This is a bit of added pressure, to be actually competing against these guys. I am not here to win but enjoy it and hopefully people will watch me and take inspiration from it.”
Modest! Golf’s Mark McDonnell is simply inspired by Lawlor’s attitude to life.
“Signing Brendan is probably one of the most rewarding things we have done as a business,” McDonnell said. “He’s a trailblazer in every way. It’s not about what he scores this week but about giving hope to people out there who might not play sport because they are embarrassed to or they have a disability and don’t feel they’re welcome.
“If he can help people get into sport and help their mental health, he feels he’s doing a good job.”
Courtesy of the Irish Independent