Shane Lowry reckons that “something special could happen” if he gets into contention at one of the four majors next year.
The popular Clara man, 28, pulled the curtain down on a stellar 2015 season on Sunday and headed straight from the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa to the Irish Youth Foundation’s Excellence in Sports Awards gala in Dublin last night.
Host Pádraig Harrington presented Lowry with a Waterford Crystal designed Special Achievement Award at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Ballsbridge in recognition of his breakthrough victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron in August.
It was a win that catapulted the former Irish Open and Portugal Masters champion to the next level in the game but the world No 21 is keen to take another big step in 2016, targeting another victory (or two) and a place in Darren Clarke’s European Ryder Cup team.
“I’ve been on tour for almost seven years now and I feel like I am getting better and better every year,” Lowry told presenter Joanne Cantwell. “As Padraig Harrington will tell you, to win the big tournaments and obviously the majors is No 1 goal. Next comes the WGCs and to win one of those for me this year was massive.
“One of my goals at the start of the year was to win any tournament. I had won twice before this year — once as a pro and once as an amateur. So to win that tournament has kind of kick-started the second part of my career and hopefully I will kick on from here.”
Knowing he can compete against the best and beat them was huge for Lowry, who admitted that he needed that boost to his confidence.
Lowry said: “The guys I beat that day - you look back and it was pretty big with Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk and Justin Rose breathing down my neck the whole day. To shoot the score I did that day….”
“I didn’t even know what it was. To shoot that score with no bogeys that day was massive. It was massive for me just to get the bit of confidence that I think I need to kick on and hopefully do bigger and better things in the coming years.
“That’s what it’s all about (beating the best). Pádraig has got three majors and we all know the majors is where it's at. And to compete in majors you have got to feel that you can beat the best and I really feel like I beat the best that week.
"And I really feel like I can go on now and hopefully set my target as competing in the majors firstly and trying to get in contention next year. You never know. If I can get into contention and get lucky one Sunday, something special could happen.”
Asked if Harrington was always “banging on about the two Opens and the PGA,” Lowry joked: “Yeah. He never shuts up about them.
“Myself and Padraig play a lot of chipping competitions for a few quid around chipping greens and he chipped in in Switzerland about a year and a half ago and it was quite similar fist pump to the one he did in the US PGA. So to be honest for me it is great to have someone like Pádraig around.
“When I was a young lad, I looked to someone like Padraig (“Young lad. You are after rubbing it in…”) But to be able to learn from Pádraig is great for me and to be able to feed off someone like that, to see what he did this year, people in Ireland are fairly quick to forget what Pádraig did during his career and to win three majors is a fairly big deal and I think people forget that. To be able to knock around with someone like that and learn from them is great for me and gives me a lot of help.”
Assessing his poor end of year performances in his last four starts, he said: “I struggled towards the end of the year. I came back and finished second in the British Masters, which I felt I should have won.
“I played in Turkey and top tenned it there, which was ok. The last few weeks haven’t been great but that’s golf. Golf is a funny game sometimes and I felt like things were going really well and I was playing quite well but certain parts of my game let me down over the last few weeks.
“But I am going to sit back and reflect on a great year and enjoy it over Christmas and start then working towards getting ready for 2016 and hopefully some bigger and better things to come.”
Asked about his goals and whether he writes then down, he beamed: “To be honest I just hope for the best. I am not one to set down targets.
"I have my coach and my caddie and a few others that help me along the way. We look at things that we want to do and next year for me the big thing is the Ryder Cup and if I can play in the Ryder Cup, that would be great for me.
“Next year I am going to need some good things to happen along the way so that is one goal. I don’t really have goals as such. I just go with the flow and hope for the best.”
Lowry’s Bridgestone win didn’t count for Ryder Cup qualification, but he added: “The points started in September sometime so the big thing is to play well in the big tournaments next year and hopefully I can make that team on merit. As a rookie, you kid of need to make that team on merit so I will have to play well at the right times next year and hopefully win a big tournament again or maybe a couple and you never know.”
Event host Harrington received a Achievement Award award for comeback win at the Honda Classic while Christy O’Connor Jnr won the Golf Digest Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Irish golf – which included 17 professional wins and two Ryder Cup appearances
Michael Conlan’s heroics in Doha, which saw him win Ireland’s first-ever gold medal at the men’s World Boxing Championships, were rewarded with an outstanding achievement award.
AP McCoy, who this year retired after riding 4,358 winners and being named champion jockey 20 years in a row, also received a lifetime achievement award.
The Irish Special Olympics team, the Irish showjumping team and the Irish men’s rugby team won the three team awards on the evening while international mountain biker Greg Callaghan won the alternative sport award.
With the 25th anniversary of Italia ’90 being remembered during the summer, the Irish team from that World Cup won the Reeling Back the Years Award.
The awards are held in aid of the Irish Youth Foundation, which supports vulnerable children and young people living in disadvantaged circumstances around the country.
Irish Youth Foundation, Excellence in Sport Awards 2015
- Outstanding Achievement – Michael Conlan
- Outstanding Team Achievement - Irish Show Jumping Team
- Golf Digest Lifetime Achievement Award - Christy O’Connor Jnr
- Outstanding Team Achievement - Special Olympics Team Ireland
- Alternative Sport – Greg Callaghan
- Reeling Back the Years Award - Irish Soccer Team Italia ’90
- Outstanding Team Achievement - Irish Rugby Team
- Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award - AP McCoy
- Outstanding Achievement - Shane Lowry
- Padraig Harrington – Outstanding Achievement for his win at the Honda Classic