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Watch: 'If Shane Lowry wins The Open, we'll be celebrating for seven days in Clara!'

Shane Lowry celebrates a putt on the 15th hole during the third round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush (Glyn Kirk/AFP)
Shane Lowry celebrates a putt on the 15th hole during the third round of The Open Championship at Royal Portrush (Glyn Kirk/AFP)

By Alan O'Keeffe

Loud cheers and applause shook the clubhouse at Shane Lowry's own Esker Hills Golf Club in County Offaly as he sealed his dominance of The Open this evening.

As he sunk the ball on the 18th hole for a four-shot lead heading into the final day, his home supporters shouted with joy.

Club captain Paul Rabbette said: "This is a tremendous feeling of absolute pride for us all here. He showed amazing skill today and his excellent temperament shows he has that x-factor that the other players don't seem to have.

"He won't be found wanting on the last day. The whole community is behind him."

While Shane Lowry had a battalion of Irish supporters cheering him in the crowds in Portrush, an army of loyal followers in his native Clara kept track of his every move on television and social media.

"His great play has been fantastic to watch. I can hardly believe the great start he got," added Rabbette.

"Big numbers are travelling up for the last day. There are shades of Baltray in 2009 when huge numbers travelled to see him win the Irish Open as an amateur."

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He remembers playing with Shane when he broke the Esker Hills course record when Shane was just 18 in 2005 — a record that still stands and the scorecard has a place of honour in the members’ bar.

In the clubhouse, applause rang out as Lowry became joint leader once again at the sixth hole. His grand-uncle Thomas Newman (68) said: "I am looking forward to going up to Portrush tomorrow. We're all really proud of him."

Mr Newman, a brother of Shane's grandmother Emily Scanlon, said he has not been too surprised by his grand-nephew's success.

"He never really wanted to go to school. As a boy, he would be here at the club playing at 8.30am and he'd be here playing all day till 5.30pm. He has given a lot to golf."

Club manager Ray Molloy said: "If he wins The Open, we'll be celebrating for seven days in Clara. More than 8,000 people turned out with two hours' notice when Brian Cowen as Taoiseach welcomed him home after his Irish Open win.

"The Open is the Olympics of world golf so the support for him is huge. I was in Portrush on Thursday and the amount of people cheering for him from all over Ireland and the world was just amazing."

As a teenage player in the club, members thought he would one day be a top Midlands golfer but they had no idea he would enter the world's top-20 golfers in 19th place in 2015, he said.

Club receptionist Caroline Guinan said even as a boy coming to the club with his father Brendan, Shane stood out. Now he can win €1m in Abu Dhabi in January and still remain "down to earth and happy go lucky".

In his native village of Clara, the community stayed tuned to broadcasts from Portrush on the progress of their local hero. Those attending a crucial senior football club championship match against Ferbane last night received regular updates on social media.

Shane's lifelong friend Colin Fitzpatrick (30), a barman in Baggot's pub, has travelled far and wide to support him. "I'm heading back to Portrush tonight. Shane always stood out as a great player even when we played pitch and putt together as children in Clara.

"He really wants to win The Open. It's the one he would most like to win. Shane is more hardworking than people think and he is very hard on himself.

"He is always focused on winning even when we are playing golf with a few friends. He still wants to win.

"I was stuck on a potato farm in the middle of nowhere in Australia in 2015 when he won the World Golf Championship in Ohio. I was glad to be with him when he was playing in Turkey last year," he said.

"The whole community are behind him all the way," he said.

And, although Baggot's was hosting a 30th birthday party for Shane's cousin Karen, all the television sets were showing the action from Portrush.

A smaller crowd in the clubhouse was proof that nearly all golfers in Clara were already in Portrush cheering him on in person, said Adrian O'Reilly (47).

"Half of Clara is in Portrush today. And that includes 90pc percent of all golfers in Clara,” he said.

"Shane is brilliant for golfing. The numbers of young people playing golf locally is through the roof. A lot of them wouldn't be playing if it wasn't for Shane," he said.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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