Champion Golfer of the Year. It’s one of the most prestigious titles in golf. For Irishman Shane Lowry, that title can now be rephrased as Champion Golfer of the YEARS, plural. With the 2020 Open Championship pushed back to 2021, the 2019 winner at Royal Portrush has been afforded the rare opportunity of enjoying two full years of defending golf’s oldest major.
Lowry, who acknowledged he’ll likely be the answer to a trivia question someday, opened up about his time spent so far as Open champion, where he’s gone with the Claret Jug, and his excitement to play in this year’s major championships.
Ryan Asselta: Thanks for taking the time with us, Champion Golfer of the Year. What has the last 12 months been like for you?
Shane Lowry: Obviously the last few months have been quite strange. I was really enjoying my time as Open champion up until The Players Championship. I felt like my golf was good and I was enjoying touring around with the Claret Jug and bringing it with me around the world. Then obviously we have been in the pandemic, so it’s been a strange few months since then.
But now I have another 12 months to enjoy it as best I can. It’s been a weird year, hasn’t it? I think I’ll end up being a quiz show question a few years down the line. It’s just the cards we were dealt.
RA: How would you describe the way you’ve been treated since your victory, especially in Ireland?
SL: Irish people are very supportive of our own. It’s been great back home. People have always been very supportive of me through the years and I’ll always be very grateful for that. We love our athletes and love when they do well. The last 10 years have been full of ups and downs, but the good times have been great and the last 12 months have been part of that.
There is no better time to watch @ShaneLowryGolf claim the Claret Jug than on his birthday ☘️🎂
— The Open (@TheOpen) April 2, 2020
RA: A year later, what’s the memory from that week at Royal Portrush that is still strong in your mind?
SL: That’s a good question, because I’ve watched it back a few times. We had such a nice week up there. We had a lovely house. In the house with me were my coach, a couple of friends, and my wife and daughter. We just had a really nice week.
Certain points stand out—how nervous I was on the first tee on Sunday and walking down 18 with the tournament over on Sunday afternoon. I suppose the one thing that sticks out was how incredible that Saturday afternoon was. That 63 is arguably one of the best scores I’ve shot in my life and the best day on the golf course that I probably have ever had. It’ll take a lot to top it and top that week in general.
RA: When it was all said and done, who reached out to you and may have surprised you with congratulations?
SL: Some Irish sports people reached out, but I also got letters from some of the greats in the game—Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw—and I wrote them letters back. It was really cool to be acknowledged for something that I achieved by the people who have done so well in the game.
RA: Obviously one of the big perks that comes with winning The Open Championship is that you get to keep the Claret Jug for the entire year. Where have you and the Jug traveled to?
SL: We’ve been everywhere. It was pretty much with me wherever I went up until The Players. It’s been to Hong Kong, the Middle East, all around Europe, and now here with me in America.
It’s been well-documented that we had a good time with it after I won. Probably the best thing I did was around Christmas, we went to a really nice restaurant in Dublin with my whole team for lunch and we brought her with us. We put some nice wine into the Jug and drank out of it. It’s been in a couple of bars and pubs, but that meal in Dublin last December was special.
It’s an unbelievable piece of history. When you look at the all of these great names on it who have won and had it in their house, that’s what is so cool to me.
RA: Can you estimate the amount of drinks that have been poured from the Claret Jug over the past year?
SL: You know, it’s funny, people probably think I came home with it and sat with it and drank out of it every night. I’d say we only filled it a handful, maybe five or six times. The first time it was really cool to pass it around. I really didn’t know what to pour into it. Once I poured a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey into it—that was quite strong, but it was nice.
RA: So, what happens now? The traditional one year run as Champion Golfer of the Year is up. Do you get to keep the jug with you until 2021?
SL: Yeah, I get to keep the jug until 2021 here in my house. I obviously don’t get to put my name on it again, but I do get to keep it here and I’ll hand it back at Royal St. George’s next year when I get back to The Open. Obviously, I’d like to have it for another year under different circumstances, but the fact that I will have the Claret Jug on my Christmas dinner table again is pretty cool as well.
RA: Is there anything you didn’t get to do with the Claret Jug or do as Champion Golfer of the Year that you’ll try to do with the extra time?
SL: I was certainly looking forward to all the good times I was going to have prior to the pandemic. Going to Augusta as Open Champion and the most recent major champion. Going to the Irish Open, not too far from my home and a place I love to play—there would have been big crowds there, but that didn’t get to happen. I would have stepped on the tee as defending Open Champion…it will all happen over the next 12 months, just under different circumstances.
RA: The Open Championship was the only major championship to be canceled this year. Do you agree with the R&A’s decision to cancel?
SL: Yeah, it was difficult for them. It’s the only major championship outside of America. Getting people from all over the world to the UK in July didn’t seem feasible at the time. So, I do agree with what they did. They had to make the decision and I was supportive of the decision at the time. I think when we’re back at Royal St. Georges in 2021 this will all hopefully be forgotten about and behind us.
RA: You do still get to be announced as Open Champion at three majors this year. How excited are you for what should be a very busy stretch of golf coming up?
SL: Yeah, we’ve got an absolutely huge run of events coming up. We’ve got three majors over the next few months. It’s strange to be playing them this time of year, but it will be a thrill to still play them. Everybody involved has done an unbelievable job of getting us back out playing again in tournaments professionally for big prize money. I’m very happy to be teeing it up in the PGA Championship right around the corner, then obviously Winged Foot in September and the Masters in November. It will be interesting to see what those tournaments actually feel like.