Brendan Lawlor seeking another historic first at Woburn

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Brendan Lawlor (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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Brendan Lawlor will return to Woburn’s Duchess Course from May 15-17 to defend the title he held off G4D world number one, Kipp Poppert, to win twelve months ago.

The Carton House golfer will be one of four Irish players in the field alongside Conor Stone, Fiona Gray and Paul O’Rahilly.

“I have plenty of good memories from last year, the course kind of suits me. It’s quite a tight course and the greens are quite small. It’s not overly long but it’s very important to hit fairways so I’m really excited,” says Lawlor, the number two ranked player in the world.

“Woburn has a lot of great players visiting all the time and has had some big events there over the years. There are three wonderful courses there and you could play the event on any of them, they’re that nice. The number of players who are there, and with all types of disabilities – the Duchess course suits everyone.

“The course is quite flat and there aren’t many hills going onto greens other than the first so it’s definitely a course that suits everybody and it’s hard to score on as well. You need to play good golf to score around there so it’s going to be great.”

Lawlor is coming off a really good stretch of form which saw him win the inaugural ISPS HANDA G4D @ the West last month and at the time of writing, he’s gearing up for the CJ Cup G4D event which will see Disability Golf showcased for the first time on the PGA Tour.

“My game is in really good shape,” the Ardee member explains. “I worked really hard on it over the winter and as hard as I could with the wet weather we’ve had, but that win in Rosses Point gives me a lot of confidence as it’s my first big win since winning the Open last year. For us it’s important to have as many events as possible to avoid getting stagnant.”

The G4D Open is the first event to be run by the R&A and is undoubtedly the first major championship to be established in disability golf.

While last year saw Poppert get the better of Lawlor for the most part, the Louth man feels he got one over on him when he won the Open.

“I’ve been very lucky in disability golf to be the first person to do many things in the sport,” Lawlor said. “It was our first ever major, which was a pretty big deal, and it was the first time that the R&A took over an event for golfers with a disability. It’s a huge deal and every player attends which guarantees the strongest field.

“If you win that event, you are truly the champion because all the best players in the world are there. It’s going to be so hard to retain it because we have Kipp Poppert, Juan Postigo and the best players in the world attending.”

Lawlor will be hoping he can climb back to the summit of the world rankings this year but doesn’t see Poppert’s recent dominance of the sport as a hindrance, rather he views it as a motivating factor for the chasing pack which will increase the depth in quality and hopefully result in prize money finally being awarded in some events.

“We needed that,” he admits. “Kipp has really dominated the sport over the last year and a bit. He has brought the game to a new level performance wise. But the thing is, yes Kipp is playing great golf, but we know we can beat him, we have beaten him in events before, so it’s not that we fear him, but we need to play really good golf to beat him. We have five or six players at that stage who can go out and win.

“I feel I can get myself into a different mindset when it comes to bigger events. I feel I can focus on these events more and get more motivated as a result. That’s important.

“We’re trying to introduce prize money now and it’s a hard stretch to get to that stage but if we can keep doing what we’re doing I don’t think we are too far away from that point.”

Lawlor hopes the G4D event at the CJ Cup, which coincides with the CJ Cup Byron Nelson on the PGA Tour, can be the next step for the sport with the PGA Tour’s involvement seen as crucial for growth given its high profile worldwide.

Ultimately though, he would love to see a G4D event held at Augusta National to tie in with the Drive, Chip and Putt and the massively successful Augusta National Women’s Amateur which have become the traditional curtain raisers for the first major of the year.

“Watching The Masters as a kid it’s your dream to get to Augusta. Playing golf as an amateur, seven or eight years ago, I would never have thought I’d be at this stage of my career where I’m at now,” says Lawlor.

“Having a G4D event at the Masters is definitely something that is achievable and those are words you would have never heard me say five or six years ago, but that just shows where G4D has gone and the next thing is to get it into the majors,” he explained.

“What I love about it is that all the players accept what I do and it’s not a hindrance us being at events, they actually enjoy us being there, playing the same sport as them, and I think it’s inspiring for them to see.

“You’ll never top the Masters. You have the Drive, Chip and Putt, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, so to have a bigger event there with the disability players would be a great boost before we all watch the big players go out and see who can win the Green Jacket at the end of the week.”

While dreams of playing at Augusta National are still far away from being realised, Lawlor lived another dream closer to home last month when he won the G4D @ The West event at Co. Sligo Golf Club which was played alongside the West of Ireland Men’s Amateur Open Championship.

He feels it’s important to have as many Irish events as possible to bring local eyes on the sport.

“Golf Ireland have really embraced what we do over the last five years or so,” he explains. “ISPS HANDA got involved in the disability sector this year which is incredible. We need a sponsor like that to grow the grassroots and give the elite players a chance to compete. It was an incredible experience.

“I used to dream of playing in the West when I was young, and then seeing the likes of Colm Campbell, Hugh Foley, and some of the best amateurs in the world and I’m on the same course as them – it was a great experience.

“Even more important was showing people in Ireland what we can do. I always felt Ireland was behind in the perception of disability golf – not Golf Ireland – I always felt if we can get more eyes on what we do it can only help the sport.

“The talent here is very strong, Alan [Gaynor, who finished second in the G4D @ The West] put it right up to me down the stretch. He’s capable of competing against anybody in the world and he can take confidence from it.”

History made by becoming the first player to win the G4D Open, the first player to win the G4D @ The West, and by the time you’re reading this, possibly the first player to win a G4D event with the PGA Tour.

He has a habit of making history, and with the G4D scene continuously breaking new ground, that’s never a bad thing.

Brendan Lawlor’s career ‘firsts’

2013 – Lawlor wins his first All-Ireland Pitch and Putt title

2019 – Lawlor wins his first EDGA title at the Scottish Open

2019 – Becomes the first disability golfer to play in a European Challenge Tour event at the ISPS HANDA World Invitational at Galgorm

2020 – Lawlor becomes the first disability golfer to tee it up in a DP World Tour event at the ISPS HANDA UK

2021 – Moves to the top of the world rankings for the first time with victory at the ISPS HANDA World Disability Invitational

2023 – Wins the inaugural G4D Open at Woburn

2024 – Wins the inagural G4D @ The West title at Co. Sligo

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