Lowry lands lolly with promise of more to come

Irish Open champion Shane Lowry got his professional career off to a financial flyer when he banked a quickfire €42,000 for taking the biggest decision of his life.

The happy-go-lucky Offaly ace was earning a tenner an hour in an Athlone golf shop just 12 months ago.

Sitting pretty - Conor Ridge and his new signingNow he’s joined the likes of Ryder Cup star Graeme McDowell and fellow European Tour winner Michael Hoey in the Horizon Sports stable and instantly landed a €20,000 grant from the Irish Sports Council and €22,000 just to turn up in the €5.8 million WGC Bridgestone Invitational in August.

Speaking to a pack press conference in the Grafton I Suite at Dublin’s plush Westbury Hotel, Lowry confessed that it’s not about the money as he plunges headlong onto the pro ranks

He said: “I'm just looking forward to getting out on the European Tour and playing some golf. If I make some money, I make some money. But it's all about getting the experience over the next six months for the 2010 season.

“It would be a great year if I could get in the top 60 and qualify for the Dubai World Championships. That would be an unbelievable year but if I don't, I don't. We will just see what happens.”

His great adventure will begin at the London Club in Kent next week when he tees it up alongside the likes of Masters winner Angel Cabrera and world No 3 Sergio Garcia in the €2 million European Open before heading to the Celtic Manor Wales Open and then the Open Championship qualifier at Sunningdale.

His winning performance sparked incredible scenes on the 18th green at Baltray that will go down in Irish sporting history alongside Stephen Roche’s cycling triple of 1987 or Packie Bonner’s penalty save in Italia ’90.

And while it took him four days to announce his decision, Lowry revealed that he had made up his mind to turn professional less than 24 hours after beating Robert Rock in a heart-stopping play-off that has made him an overnight celebrity.

Explaining why he opted to give up a Walker Cup cap, he said: "Coming off the 18th green I thought to myself, there's nothing else I can do to be honest.

“Obviously I’ve thought about it loads over the last few days but my mind was actually made up if not Sunday evening then on Monday morning.

"It was obviously madness after I won. The home phone was taken off the hook and I wasn't answering calls to people I didn't know. I was just answering to friends and family because if I talked to everyone I'd be like that all day.

"I haven't spoken to Padraig Harrington. But I've spoke to Michael McGinley, Paul's father, I've spoken to Gary Murphy, Johnny Caldwell, Rory (McIlroy) and I've taken everybody's advice on board.

"At the end of day it's my career and I feel the decision to turn pro is the best for my career and the best for my future.”

It could be some time before Lowry secures a major sponsor but he certainly has no plans to change the magic formula that made him the first amateur to win a European Tour event on his debut.

He’s decided to continue with GUI National Coach Neil Manchip as his swing advisor and mentor and his loyal caddie David “Shaper” Reynolds, who has  secured an escape route from the dole queue.

Shane said: “David was in the building trade but obviously that isn't going great so he hasn't been doing anything for the last while. I'm sure he's happy to have a job now as well. I am delighted to be able to give him the opportunity because he was struggling with work. I'm happy for him as well.

“He’s a friend of the family, a member of Esker Hills and a pretty decent golfer himself. He's been a great help to me and I feel like I owed it to him and to myself to bring him out on tour to learn new stuff.”

Lowry’s decision to go with Horizon was never really in doubt, despite offers from rival management firms such as IMG, Green 17 and ISM.

The Dublin based company had promised to help Lowry secure invitations once he turned professional after the Walker Cup but everything changed on that historic Sunday afternoon.

Horizon boss Conor Ridge said: “Shane was under pressure from half of Offaly for tickets for the Irish Open and asked us to help him out with extra tickets, and we did. We spoke about the options that were open to him when he turned professional later in the year.

"When he came on off the 18th on Sunday, I met him coming down by the media centre, and he said, 'I don't think I'm going to need any of those invites in September, Conor'.”

Lowry added: “I had other management companies phoning me and texting me but I didn't even look at what they had to offer.

"I feel like I'm doing the right thing by going with Horizon and Graeme McDowell, Ross Fisher, they can't be too wrong with what they've done over the last few years so I feel like I'm doing the right thing for me.”

Lowry’s life will be transformed over the next few months but he’s no plans to go changing the magic formula that has made him an overnight folk hero.

Keeping his feet on the ground, Lowry said: “I’d like to think I’m pretty grounded. I’m sure my parents will let me know quickly if I’m not and I’d like to think I will be.

“Shooting 62 gives in the Irish Open and then going on to win has given me great confidence that I can shoot those kinds of numbers because it is tough to go low.”

Now it’s a question of high he can go. New horizons have opened up and the sky’s the limit.