Brendan Lawlor on coaching Prince Harry and making Tour history



CNN

Brendan Lawlor is a man of his word.

In October 2020, the Irishman told CNN Sport that he hoped to “keep the ball rolling” for the next generation of disabled golfers.

not now 1 in the World Handicap Rankings, Lawlor has driven the ball down the fairway and over the top, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to land anytime soon.

Three years ago, he acclimated to his new life as a professional athlete. Since then, the 25-year-old has become the first golfer with a disability to compete on the European Tour, won three straight handicap events through 2021 and climbed to the top of the world golf rankings for to disabled

SUTTON COLDFIELD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Brendan Lawlor of Ireland in action during a practice round ahead of the ISPS HANDA UK Championship at The Belfry on August 26, 2020 in Sutton Coldfield, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Brendan Lawlor: Irish pioneer paves the way for disabled golfers

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– Source: CNN

In recent weeks, he has helped Prince Harry improve his swing and spearheaded a historic new Tour for Golf for the Disabled, but perhaps Lawlor’s most cherished moment came at the team’s final trials at European golf championship for people with disabilities in your country.

“It’s crazy – last year in Ireland we had no handicap golfers and this year we had a final event with seven players, all under three handicaps, which is amazing,” Lawlor told CNN.

“Everybody’s like, ‘We started this because … we saw you play at The Belfry (on Lawlor’s European Tour debut), we saw you do this,'” he added. “It’s a sense of well-being in the ‘stomach when people try something because you are creating the way for them.

“I don’t really care about rankings, I just want to go out there and win as many events as I can and change as many people’s lives as I can.”

From his home town of Dundalk, north Dublin, Lawlor was chatting ahead of the start of the inaugural Golf for the Disabled Tour (G4D) at the British Masters.

Four-time Ryder Cup host The Belfry in Warwickshire, England, provided an iconic setting for the launch of the Tour, which will be contested by the world’s top 10 disabled golfers across seven events in six countries.

Lawlor on the 18th green at The Belfry at the inaugural G4D event.

Where handicap events were swallowed up between European Tour events, the new G4D Tour will be run in association with, and for two days immediately preceding, the European Tour. With each tournament the subject of a feature-length documentary on Sky Sports, disability golf is getting more exposure than ever before.

world no. 2 Kipp Popert was victorious in the inaugural event, with Lawlor finishing four shots off the Englishman in fourth.

See: European Tour CEO on name change to DP World Tour

“If we can keep sending that message, if we can affect even 10 people, that’s massive,” said Lawlor, who already dreams of expanding the Tour to 50 players. “This will have a ripple effect for golf with disabilities.”

Lawlor’s recent outing at the Belfry marked a return to the course where he headlined in 2020 when he competed alongside major winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer, as well as former world no. 1 Lee Westwood at the ISPS Handa UK Championship, the first time a golfer with a disability had played in a professional European Tour event.

Born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by short-limbed dwarfism, Lawlor has no knuckles on the top of his fingers. While he welcomes his platform as a leading golfer with a disability and the opportunities it brings, the Irishman is keen that he and his teammates not be defined by their disabilities.

Lawlor and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa (centre right) at the DP Tour World Championship in Dubai, November 2021.

“We’re getting these massive opportunities because we’re doing abnormal things — we shouldn’t be able to do what we can do with a golf club or a golf ball,” he said.

“So we’re getting these opportunities because we’re disabled athletes, but I don’t like people categorizing you and putting you in a disability category, because golf is for everyone – you play at any level.”

“That’s the most beautiful thing about our game,” he added. “Yes, we play handicap golf on a handicap tour, but if you’re good enough to play on the European Tour with golfers without handicaps, you have that opportunity.”

Lawlor turned pro in September 2019 and signed with Modest! Golf Management, a company founded by his partner and Irish singer-songwriter Niall Horan. An advocate for disabled golf, the former One Direction star is now a close friend.

Lawlor poses with the World Disability Invitational trophy next to Niall Horan.

“He’s really changed my life – since I signed, he’s brought me some amazing endorsement deals and really embraced disability golf,” Lawlor said. “He’s a really nice guy and would do anything to help you.”

And if a hugely successful music career wasn’t enough, Horan is also an impressive golfer, currently playing off an eight handicap.

Horan isn’t the only famous face to take up a club with Lawlor. In April, the Irishman gave the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, swing tips in The Hague, Netherlands.

Lawlor was promoting the fifth edition of the Invictus Games, an international event for wounded servicemen and veterans, with Prince Harry as patron of the Games Foundation.

Prince Harry gets a golf lesson from Lawlor.

With a room of golf simulators, Lawlor spent the day giving lessons to veterans from around the world who shared their stories of different battles, both physical and mental.

Related: Steph Curry launches all-expenses-paid golf tour for underrepresented young players

“These guys were trying golf for the first time and making contact with the ball,” Lawlor said. “It only takes one person to get involved and start the game and that can get more people involved.”
And how was the Duke of Sussex’s swing? Not too bad, says Lawlor.

“He took the club and I just tweaked a thing or two and he hit it really well,” Lawlor added. “He was a very nice guy.”

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