Brendan Lawlor on training Prince Harry and making Tour history
Brandon Lawler is a man of his word.
In October 2020, the Irishman told CNN Sport He hoped to keep the “ball rolling” for the next generation the golfer with disabilities.
is now number 1 World rankings for golfers with disabilitiesLawler has driven that ball across the fairway and over the top — and it doesn’t look like it’s going down anytime soon.
Three years ago, he was adjusting to his new life as a professional athlete. Since then, the 25-year-old has become the first golfer with a handicap to compete on the European Tour, won three consecutive handicap events through 2021, and climbed to the top of the handicap golf world rankings.
Brendan Lawler: Irish trailblazer paves the way for golfers with disabilities
In recent weeks, he has helped Prince Harry improve his swing and headlined an important new tour for handicap golf – yet perhaps Lawler’s fondest moment for his country’s handicap golf European Championship team. appeared in the final trials.
“It’s crazy – last year in Ireland we had no golfers with a handicap and this year we had a final trial with seven players – all under three-handicaps, which is amazing,” Lawler told CNN. .
“They all say, ‘We started it because … we saw you play the Belfry (at the start of Lawler’s European tour), we see you doing it,'” he added. “It’s a good feeling in your stomach when people try to do something because you’re paving the way for them.
“I don’t really care about rankings – I just want to go out and win as many events as I can, and change as many people’s lives as possible.”
From his hometown of Dundalk, north of Dublin, Lawler was speaking ahead of the start of the inaugural Golf for the Disabled (G4D) Tour at the British Masters.
The Belfry in Warwickshire, England, four-time host of the Ryder Cup, provides a spectacular setting for the start of the tour, which will be contested by the world’s 10 best-ranked golfers with disabilities in seven events across six countries.
Where the European Tour once swallowed handicap events between events, the new G4D Tour will run in support of the European Tour immediately before – and two days before – the European Tour. With each tournament the subject of a full-length broadcast documentary on Sky Sports, handicap golf is enjoying more exposure than ever.
World number two Kip Poppert won the first event, with Lawler finishing four shots clear of the fourth-placed Englishman.
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“If we can continue to send that message, if we can impact even 10 people’s lives, that’s huge,” said Lawler, who already dreams of expanding the tour to 50 players. “This is going to have a roll-on effect for handicap golf.”
Lawler’s recent Belfry outing marked his return to the course in 2020 when he took on major winners Danny Willett and Martin Kemmer – as well as former world No. 1 Lee Westwood – in the ISPS Honda UK Championship – the first time a professional European A golfer with a handicap played in a tour event.
Born with Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by dwarfism of small limbs, Lawler has no knuckles on the tops of his toes. While welcoming his platform as a leading handicap golfer and the opportunities it brings, the Irishman is keen for himself and fellow players not to be defined by their disabilities.
“We’re getting these big opportunities because we’re doing extraordinary things — we shouldn’t be able to do what we can do with a golf club or a golf ball,” he said.
“So we’re getting these opportunities because we’re disabled athletes, but I don’t like it when people categorize you and put you in a disability category, because golf is for everyone – whatever level you play. ”
“That’s the beautiful thing about our sport,” he added. “Yes, we play handicap golf on the handicap tour, but if you’re good enough to play on the European Tour with able-bodied golfers, you’ll get that opportunity.”
Lawlor turned professional in September 2019 and signed with Modest! Golf Management, a company founded by fellow Irishman and singer-songwriter Niall Horan. An advocate for 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 amazing endorsement deals and really embraced handicap golf,” Lawler said. “He’s a really nice guy and he’ll do anything to help you.”
And as if a hugely successful music career wasn’t enough, Horan is also an impressive golfer, currently sporting an eight-handicap.
Horan isn’t the only famous face to have picked up a club with Lawler. In April, the Irishman gave swing tips to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, at The Hague in the Netherlands.
Lawler was promoting the fifth edition of the Invictus Games, an international event for wounded serving and veteran military personnel, patronized by the Prince Harry Games Foundation.
Using a golf simulator room, Lawler spent the day giving lessons to veterans from around the world who shared their stories of both physical and mental battles.
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“These guys were trying golf for the first time and making contact with the ball,” Lawler said. “It only takes one person to join and start the game and it can bring more people into it.”
And how was the Duke of Sussex’s swing? Not bad at all, says Lawler.
“He held the club and I just tweaked a thing or two and he hit it really well,” Lawler added. “He was a really good guy.”