Shane Lowry is so excited at the prospect of marching out behind the 2020 Ireland Olympic flag that he and wife, Wendy have already booked their flights to Japan.
Unlike the Zika virus that robbed the 2016 Olympics of many of golf’s best, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will see the ancient game’s brightest stars competing over four days in Saitama to the north-west of Tokyo.
Spearheading Ireland’s push for golfing gold will be Rory McIlroy and team-mate Lowry, with each needed to endure a complete downturn in form over the next seven months or so not to be bound for the Japanese capital.
The four-round battle for the 2020 Olympic Games golf gold medal will be held from July 30th to August 2nd, two weeks following Lowry’s defence of the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in Kent.
“Myself and Wendy are booked to head to the Japan Olympics the Wednesday before and if I am on the team, I will be at the opening ceremony,” said Lowry ahead of today’s starting Turkish Airlines Open in Belek.
“I’m not 100 percent on the team but I have my flights booked and if I’m not, I will cancel them.”
Though if he does qualify to join McIlroy, then Lowry could easily find himself walking into the Japan stadium holding the Irish flag. Given the standing ovation he received when a week after his Royal Portrush success, the Offaly golfer proudly paraded the Claret Jug at Croke Park ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final between Kilkenny and Limerick, it’s something he’s already looking forward to.
“I wouldn’t say no, as everybody knows how patriotic and Irish I am but, look, there is obviously going to be other athletes there who will be putting their name forward to carry the Ireland flag I am sure,” he said.
“It would be an incredible honour for myself and my family if asked to do something like that.”
Lowry’s long-time coach and Ireland Olympic Golf Team Captain, Neil Manchip has already visited the host Kasumigaseki Country Club course at Saitama and it will mean the Irish team residing close to the course rather than the official Olympic Games village, given the traffic snarls players could face if not staying in the Saitama region,
“Neil’s been to the course doing a bit of a reccy, he is obviously the team captain and says it is not really physically possible to stay in the Olympic village and then head to play in the tournament.
“He says it’s about an hour-and-a-half with no traffic but then the traffic is really bad around Tokyo so it could take you well over two hours.
“What we’ll try and find is something between the village and the golf course. The first few nights I get there I will stay in the village and then when it comes to the week of the tournament, I will probably go out to the tournament.”
And with McIlroy as his 2020 Irish Olympic partner, what chance does Ireland have of winning the gleaming golfing gold medal?
“We don’t win all that many gold medals in Ireland so that would be a huge moment if Rory and I could do that, but obviously it will be quite difficult,” said Lowry.
“We won’t be going in as the favourite to win it but then maybe my teammate might be, so we have got a good team and could go over there and hopefully do something special between the two of us.
“Also, just to have Rory as a teammate is incredible. I have said it all along, when he has his A-game, there is no one better. I know he hasn’t done it in the majors recently and that’s been well publicised over the last couple of weeks, but when he has his A-game, there is nobody better than him.”
Lowry’s all-time Ireland Olympic moment?
“I will always remember watching Sonia O’Sullivan finishing second in Sydney in 2000,” he said.
TURKISH AIRLINES OPEN – IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time)
8.30am – Padraig Harrington
9am – Shane Lowry
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