LOCH LOMOND // One day you are widespread and wanted, the next you are a wallflower. These are the fundamentals of life, these are the basic rudiments of sport. You imagine playing professional golf for a living is similar to attending the school of hard knocks, a more onerous task even than gaining access to the European Tour via its yearly qualifying school. Ireland's Shane Lowry did not attain professional status because of a sturdy performance at the tour school. He did not have to fraternise with the hours of study that such a rigorous examination demands.
In winning a saturated Irish Open at Baltray as an amateur in May, the carefree and cavalier Lowry, an earthy lad at 22, and one who is full of bonhomie in his brighter moments, was catapulted into a stage of his development that he probably did not envisage as recently as two months ago. Some professionals never achieve a tournament win. Lowry managed the accomplishment in his first tour event. A two-year European Tour exemption accompanied the trophy in Ireland. Lowry chose to turn professional the day after outlasting Robert Rock in a tumultuous play-off. His winning putt seemed to usher in a grand shindig as what felt like half of Ireland bounded on to Baltray's 18th green to smother him. His welcoming party included the Dubai Desert Classic winner Rory McIlroy, who was yesterday sporting a startling pair of tartan trousers after opening with a three-under 68 at the Scottish Open.
The British Open and USPGA champion Padraig Harrington was astounded by Lowry's win. The Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen apparently offered him a lift home from the tournament, but goodwill only carries a player so far. After the frolics have gone, form has to be rediscovered. Such a balancing act is never straightforward. In the seven weeks that have passed since his win, Lowry has encountered seismic drifts, missing cuts at the European Open, the Welsh Open and the BMW International in Germany.
He made his first cut at the French Open last week, even if 50th place was hardly likely to prompt more revelry back in County Offaly. There were no vast crowds tailing Lowry yesterday morning. It was all strikingly sedate, but that will change if he is thrust into contention this week. This is a whole new ball game for Lowry, as he conceded after posting an opening two-under 69, a round equal to anything he has mustered since Baltray. "A lot of people had the impression that I didn't practice at all when I turned professional, but I do practice," said Lowry.
"I have to practice a bit more, but there is so much time out here to practice that it is unbelievable. I feel that my short game has come on, and my confidence is coming back. "The professional game is as tough as I expected it to be, but it has all calmed down since Baltray. I am just another player out here. "Of course, it is tough to keeping your feet on the ground, but I have a lot of good people looking after me."
Golf is a learning experience at any age. Harrington has been missing cuts with enormous regularity this season in slipping out of the world's top 10.. Lowry would like to be in the field when the British Open champion defends the Claret Jug at Turnberry. If he finishes high enough up the field at Loch Lomond, he could claim a qualifying spot this week. "I want to just learn as much as I can, and get ready for next year," said Lowry. "This is all a learning experience for me. I am looking at it as if I am serving an apprenticeship. I'm happy to be out here, and I think my game is getting better even in the four tournaments that I have played already."
While the ballyhoo of Baltray is slowly dissipating, Lowry's head is hardly up in the clouds that drift over Loch Lomond. He is finding out that in any profession, you're only as good as your last, telling contribution. @Email:email@example.com