A raucous crowd has whittled down to its final few. The roars that met Shane Lowry’s winning putt at the Open Championship at Royal Portrush now just an echo in the breeze. Those who remain recognise the need to cherish the moment; an Irishman winning the famed Claret Jug on Irish soil. And so no wonder then that Gerard Donnelly decided to take his chance inside the ropes – marshals no more – and survey the scene of Lowry’s last stab with the putter, the exclamation point on a performance that will forever be remembered on emerald shores.
“I just wanted to see where he made the putt to win The Open,” said Gerard Donnelly, a school teacher from Tyrone when speaking to the BBC. It was his first time attending a live golf tournament and by chance, he’d stumbled across a modern classic.
“I just went up to the hole, looked in and saw something sitting in it, it didn’t even trigger with me.
“I just bent down and picked up a ball and then four guys in the grandstand roared at me: ‘What have you just picked up there?’
Amid the excitement of his runaway six-shot win and the subsequent explosion of emotion that followed, Lowry had forgot to pick up the ball that travelled with him to its 72nd hole destination. It wasn’t to be its last.
“When I described it and said there was a shamrock on it they said it was Shane Lowry’s ball that he’s won The Open with. People were soon taking photos of me with the ball. It was my first ever golf event so to find that was just unbelievable.
“I can’t believe no-one else saw it before I got there as I’m sure 100 people walked past that hole. That evening was like a blur, a mix of wanting to tell people and not tell people at the same time – I didn’t want it to be stolen.”
Donnelly was put in contact with Lowry’s management company who suggested he post the ball back to them but such a precious dimpled nugget couldn’t be risked in the hands of another.
“It’s not something I’d like to post in case it got lost but Shane has followed me on Twitter and if he wants it I will go down and hand it to him,” he added.
“I would not sell it and would keep it in a wee case. It’s a brilliant memento to have for Irish sport, for Shane Lowry to win The Open when it’s held at Portrush and the ball used for the putt to win.
“It’s amazing – everyone who comes to the house wants to see the ‘Lowry ball’ but very few get to hold it.
“Ideally I would give it to him. It’s great for me to have but it has sentimental value for him and might be something for him to always look back on.
“I would love to meet him so if he wants we can arrange that. I will give the ball to him and if there’s a VIP ticket on offer for an event I’ll not say no!”
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