Even for the Irish these were wild celebrations. The gallery swarmed on to the 18th green like a boxing crowd invading the ring and lifted aloft their national hero while spraying him in bubbly. The scenes at Co Louth Golf Club last night suggested this was no ordinary European victory and indeed it wasn't. Shane Lowry had become the first amateur to win on his very first Tour outing. And that is as incredible an achievement as it sounds.
Perhaps the scale of his feat in taking the 3 Irish Open was best summed up by the identity of one of the open-mouthed who sprinted across the putting surface to engulf the new champion. For the last year or so, Rory McIlroy has been dropping jaws everywhere with his ripping up of all that had previously been deemed possible for a young Irishman. Yet here he was hailing the miracle of a friend and former rival.
Lowry, 22, used to play on the same amateur teams as McIlroy and became used to making his own way in McIlroy's shadow. No longer, not after his dramatic victory over Robert Rock on the third play-off hole. The chubby lad from Co Offaly has his own remarkable entry in the records book now. He is expected to turn pro today and take his place in the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, an undreamt-of scenario five days ago. "I know my life is about to change for ever," said Lowry, who had planned to play in this year's Walker Cup. "I'd be mad not to turn pro."
Lowry is just the third amateur to prevail on Tour – following Spain's Pablo Martin in Portugal two years ago and New Zealand's Danny Lee in Australia earlier this year – but both of his pro-belittling predecessors had enjoyed previous run-outs. "Right now, I'm feeling shock more than anything. I got an invite here, it's my first tournament and I would have been happy to make the cut. But then I shot the 62 on Friday and after that I thought, 'This is my week – I can win.' And I did"
This was a spectacular finish to a grand old tournament which so almost lost to the credit crunch. The new sponsors could not have believed their investment would pay off this quickly. The locals knew they were witnessing one of golf's most unlikely debuts and were not about play it down. Especially as this one of their own rewriting history.
Poor Rock was instantly forgotten in the ensuing tumult, although there was plenty of consolation on hand of the English professional. This was the closest Rock had come to an overdue title, but at least he received the winner's cheque. Thanks to Lowry's non-paid status, the Midlander collected the near £500,000 first prize.
In truth, it would have been too cruel on Lowry if Rock had walked away with the silverware as well. Lowry had led from the second round onwards and somehow managed to overcome the high winds and the inevitable nerves that jangled around his inexperienced frame. Yesterday the lad who drove to the course each day in a beat-up Mitsubishi Colt greeted each wayward shot with a loud curse, and it seemed certain that he would be caught by the pack. But he dug deep. And when he was left with a birdie putt of less than four feet on the last hole of regulation it appeared his spirit was just about to be rewarded. However, it agonisingly dribbled wide and at 17-under he had tied with Rock. "I didn't think I would have a better chance than that," Lowry said.
Twenty minutes later, Rock had a nine-footer on the first sudden-death hole, but it also slipped by. Then, after they had both birdied the next, Rock ran up a bogey six and Lowry holed from 12 inches. "This is going to take a long time to sink in," he said.Reuse content