Historically for those in the entertainment industry from this side of the pond, you hadn’t got it made until you broke America. The Atlantic was a rough crossing. For every Queen, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, there were countless others who, if they didn’t drown en route, were chewed up and spat out by the Land of Opportunity, kind to some but so often cruel.
Whether or not you believe that sport, and in this case golf, falls under the entertainment category is irrelevant. This week, for those competing in the inaugural ISPS Handa All Abilities Champions Playoff in Hawaii, it’s all about putting on a show, specifically showcasing all that is great about Disability Golf, something that happens to come naturally to one of our own, Brendan Lawlor.
“We’re trying to get our foot in the PGA Tour’s door and this is going to be a fantastic stepping-stone – things are looking really bright for the future,” Lawlor says.
The Modest! Golf professional has been on what’s felt like a one-man mission at times, striving to put Disability Golf on the map. A three-time champion last year, including when he shared the winning stage alongside the world number 2, Collin Morikawa at the DP World Tour Championship, Lawlor has been letting his clubs do the talking, though his fierce passion for Disability Golf has captured the imagination of many any time he gets a microphone in hand.
“Again, it’s a privilege to be here this week,” Lawlor says, forever grateful but always pushing.
“Hopefully we can get the win. Apparently it’s a lovely trophy so it would be nice to bring some glass home and start off the year with a win but the main priority this week is showing the Americans that there’s a market for what we do, so that’s the plan.”
Aloha, @BrendanLawlor97! ?
— TaylorMadeGolfEurope (@TaylorMadeTour) January 6, 2022
The only man to finish under-par in Dubai, Lawlor had the whole world talking about Disability Golf and having competed alongside the stars of the DP World Tour, this week affords Lawlor and co a new platform, not least nine holes of televised action on Friday alongside the big winners of 2021 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Having arrived to Kapalua on Monday, Lawlor has been well-received. The 24-year old is fast becoming a household name all of his own, turning heads for all the right reasons having earned the respect of the PGA Tour’s roster long before ever stepping foot in Hawaii.
“The reception from all the guys has been ridiculous,” he admits. “I got onto the putting green and Ricky Elliot was there [Koepka’s caddie].
“We were chatting for a few minutes and Brooks swaggers in, ‘Alright dude! Super win in Dubai!’ So it’s pretty cool to know that these guys are noticing what we’re doing.”
Bryson DeChambeau was amongst a host of people reaching out to Brendan following his Dubai exploits and having earmarked the American as someone he’d love to meet, Lawlor got his wish by chance on Wednesday.
“I really wanted to meet Bryson,” Lawlor says. “He was coming back from the range and I was walking up to the first tee and he stops the buggy and comes over and goes ‘Alright dude, how’s it going? Congrats on Dubai. I love watching your progress’ and all that sort of stuff.
“So me and Dad watched Bryson hitting his 3-wood about 1700-yards off the first and then went about our practice on the Bay Course!”
Such interactions are now the norm for the 24-year old. He takes them in his stride, never star-struck. And why would he be? Lawlor’s focussed on his own mission, determined to knock down doors that have remained stubborn to his advances thus far, particularly getting Disability Golf into the Paralympics.
This week presents another huge opportunity to catch the eye of that committee. Played over Thursday and Friday in a match-play format, the All Abilities Champions Playoff brings together the winners from four of the world’s biggest all abilities events with day one played on the Bay Course before players take to the Plantation Course to compete alongside the biggest names in golf.
Armed with a new TaylorMade Stealth driver that’s been going well in practice, Lawlor has been drawn to play US Disabled Open winner, Chad Pfeifer on the opening day. Pray for Chad!