Local man Brendan Lawlor is making history today – becoming the first professional golfer with a disability to play on the European Tour.
The 22-year-old former Dundalk Grammar School student from mid-Louth is breaking new ground on Thursday morning, teeing off in the first round of the ISPS HANDA UK Championship at The Belfry.
His appearance follows on from the achievement of becoming the first disability golfer to play in a European Challenge Tour event last season. Now in his first season as a professional, Lawlor is in Sutton Coldfield rubbing shoulders with Lee Westwood, Eduardo Molinari and Martin Kaymar.
Lawlor teed off at 09:15 this morning alongside England’s Richard McEvoy and Jeff Winther of Denmark.
The young player was born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a rare bone condition and growth disorder that leads to having shorter limbs. He has been making his mark around the world for several years with high profile wins and currently sits fourth in the golf world rankings for players with disability.
In the last year alone, Lawlor has won the European Disabled Golf Association Tour, turned professional and played in a Challenge Tour event – hitting rounds of 78 and 74 in the Challenge Tour’s ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle.
Now part of One Direction star Niall Horan’s Modest Golf agency, Lawlor has also been offered a lifetime’s honourary membership, where he spends much of his time between tournaments.
He is a well known member of Ardee Golf Club and Dundalk Golf Club in recent years and speaking to the media ahead of this week’s ISPS HANDA UK Championship, he said he is happy to act as a standard bearer for disability golf.
“This will be my first European Tour start ever and it’s going to be a massive experience. I’m not going in with massive expectations but I will go in and enjoy myself and hopefully there will be a few people watching that it will make a difference for them. That’s the main goal,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“I’m very, very comfortable with it,” he said. “I love what I do, I really enjoy it. Like, I see both sides. I’ve played able-bodied golf all my life and only turned to disability golf about two years ago and the stories you see and the people you meet, it’s so inspiring.
“I love it and it just feels natural to promote the game and make disability golf as big as we can make it and get more players in. It doesn’t have to be at the competitive level but on a well-being level as well and that side is very important too,” said the golfer, who stands at 4ft 11″.
“So it is a big week, not just for myself but a big week for people looking in and believing they can get to that level and compete and most importantly get the invite. What we represent is so special and there are some inspirational stories to hear and I think there’s going to be a lot more events that we’ll be taking part in.”
Following on from his invite to this week’s tournament – Lawlor is an ambassador for ISPS – the Louth man will also play on the European Challenge Tour next week in the Northern Ireland Open at Galgorm.