Brendan Lawlor is a man of his word.
In October 2020, the Irishman told DailyExpertNews Sport that he hoped to “keep the ball rolling” for the next generation of golfers with disabilities.
Now number 1 in the world rankings for golfers with disabilities, Lawlor has driven that ball over the fairway and over the top – and it doesn’t look like it’s going to land anytime soon.
Three years ago, he was acclimating to his new life as a top athlete. Since then, the 25-year-old has become the first golfer with a disability to compete on the European Tour, winning three disabled events in a row until 2021 and rocketing to the top of the disabled golf world rankings.
– Source: DailyExpertNews
Brendan Lawlor: Irish pioneer paves the way for golfers with disabilities
In recent weeks, he’s helped Prince Harry improve his swing and headlined a historic new Disability Golf Tour – but perhaps Lawlor’s most cherished moment was during the final tests for the team’s European Disability Golf Championships in his country.
“It’s pretty crazy – last year in Ireland we had no handicapped golfers and this year we had a final trial with seven players – all less than three handicaps, which is great,” Lawlor told DailyExpertNews.
“They all say, ‘We started this because… we saw you play The Belfry (on Lawlor’s European Tour debut), we see you do this,’ he added. “It’s a good feeling in your stomach when people try something, because you create the path for them.
“I don’t really care about rankings — I just want to win as many events as I can and change the lives of as many people as possible.”
From his hometown of Dundalk, north of Dublin, Lawlor was chatting for the start of the inaugural Golf for the Disabled (G4D) Tour at the British Masters.
The Belfry, which has hosted the Ryder Cup in Warwickshire, England four times, provided an iconic backdrop to the launch of the Tour, which will be contested by the world’s 10 best-ranked golfers with disabilities in seven events in six countries.
Where once disabled events were swallowed up between the European Tour events, the new G4D Tour will take place in conjunction with – and two days immediately prior to – the European Tour. With each tournament the subject of a full-length Sky Sports documentary, handicapped golf is getting more attention than ever before.
World No. 2 Kipp Popert was victorious in the first event, with Lawlor finishing four shots from the Englishman in fourth.
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“If we can keep sending this message, if we can even affect the lives of 10 people, that’s huge,” said Lawlor, who already dreams of expanding the Tour to as many as 50 players. “This is going to have a roll-on effect for handicapped golf.”
Lawlor’s recent outing at the Belfry marked a return to the track on which he made headlines in 2020 when he competed in the ISPS Handa UK Championship alongside big winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer – as well as former world No. 1 Lee Westwood – the first time a golfer with a handicap played in a professional European Tour event.
Born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by short-limb dwarfism, Lawlor has no knuckles on the tops of his fingers. While welcoming his platform as a leading handicap golfer and the opportunities it brings, the Irishman is keen that himself and his fellow players not be defined by their handicaps.
“We get these huge 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 get these opportunities because we’re disabled athletes, but I don’t like it when people categorize you and put you in a handicap category because golf is for everyone — you play at any level.”
“That’s the beauty of our game,” he added. “Yes, we play handicapped golf on a handicapped tour, but if you’re good enough to play with able-bodied golfers on the European Tour, you get that chance.”
Lawlor turned professional in September 2019 and signed with Modest! Golf Management, a company founded by fellow countryman and singer-songwriter Niall Horan. An advocate of disability golf, the former One Direction star is now a close friend.
“He’s really changed my life — since I signed, he’s brought me some incredible endorsement deals and really embraced disability golf,” Lawlor said. “He’s just a really nice guy and he’d do anything to help you.”
And as if a wildly successful music career weren’t enough, Horan is also an impressive golfer, currently playing at a handicap of eight.
Horan isn’t the only famous face to have picked up a club with Lawlor. In April, the Irishman handed out swing tips to the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, in The Hague in the Netherlands.
Lawlor promoted the fifth edition of the Invictus Games, an international event for wounded servicemen and veterans, featuring Prince Harry, a patron saint of the Games’ Foundation.
Using a golf simulator room, Lawlor spent the day giving lessons to veterans from around the world who shared their stories of various battles, both physical and mental.
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“These guys were trying golf for the first time and making contact with the ball,” Lawlor said. “It only takes one person to join and start the game and that can bring more people to it.”
And how was the Duke of Sussex’s swing? Not bad at all, Lawlor says.
“He grabbed the club and I tweaked one or two things and he hit it really well,” Lawlor added. “He was a really nice guy.”