Three years ago, he was acclimating to his new life as a professional athlete. Since then, the 25-year-old has become the first golfer with a disability to compete on the European Tour, he has won three disability events in a row through 2021 and has jumped to the top of the global golf league table for the disabled.
In recent weeks, she has helped Prince Harry improve his swing and led a new historic golf tour for the disabled, but perhaps Lawlor’s most cherished moment came in the final tests for the European Golf Championships for the Disabled team. of his country.
“It’s pretty crazy – last year we had no disabled golfers in Ireland and this year we had a final round with seven players – all under three handicaps, which is amazing,” Lawlor told CNN.
“They all say, ‘we started because … we saw you play The Belfry (Lawlor’s debut on the European Tour), we saw you do it,” he added. “It’s a feeling of well-being in the stomach when people feel something because you are creating the path for them.
“I don’t really care about the rankings: I just want to go out and win as many events as possible and change the lives of as many people as possible.”
A new dawn
From his hometown of Dundalk, north of Dublin, Lawlor was chatting before the start of the inaugural Golf for the Disabled (G4D) tour at the British Masters.
A four-time Ryder Cup host in Warwickshire, England, The Belfry provided an iconic setting for the launch of the Tour, which will be played by the world’s 10 best-ranked golfers with disabilities across seven events in six countries.
Where once disabled events were swallowed up by the events of the European Tour, the new G4D Tour will take place in association with – and in the two days immediately preceding – the European Tour. With each tournament featured in a lengthy documentary broadcast on Sky Sports, golf for the disabled is enjoying unprecedented visibility.
world n. 2 Kipp Popert was victorious in the inaugural event, with Lawlor finishing four shots outside the English in fourth place.
“If we can keep sending this message, if we can impact the lives of 10 people, that’s huge,” said Lawlor, who already dreams of expanding the Tour to up to 50 players. “This will have a roll-on effect for disabled golf.”
“Golf is for everyone”
Lawlor’s recent outing at the Belfry marked a return to the field where he made headlines in 2020 when he competed alongside big winners Danny Willett and Martin Kaymer, as well as the former World Number 1. 1 Lee Westwood – at the ISPS Handa UK Championship – the first time a disabled golfer has played in a professional European Tour event.
Born with Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by short limb dwarfism, Lawlor has no knuckles on his fingertips. While welcoming his platform as a golfer with a disability and the opportunities he offers, the Irishman wants himself and other players not to be defined by their disabilities.
“We’re getting these huge opportunities because we’re doing abnormal 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 classify you and put you in a disability category, because golf is for everyone – you play at any level.”
“This is the great thing about our game,” he added. “Yes, we play disabled golf on a disabled tour, but if you are good enough to play on the European Tour with able-bodied players, you have that option.”
Going in the right direction
Lawlor turned pro in September 2019 and signed with Modest! Golf Management, a company founded by fellow Irishman and songwriter Niall Horan. Defender of golf for the disabled, the former One Direction star is now a close friend.
“It has really changed my life – since I signed, it has brought me some amazing sponsorship deals and has really embraced golf for the disabled,” said Lawlor. “He’s just a really nice guy and he would do anything to help you.”
And as if a hugely successful music career wasn’t enough, Horan is also an impressive golfer, currently playing with a handicap of eight.
Prince of golf
Horan isn’t the only famous face to have taken a club with Lawlor. In April, the Irishman handed out swing tips to the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, in The Hague in the Netherlands.
Lawlor was promoting the fifth edition of the Invictus Games, an international event for the wounded in service and veteran military personnel, with Prince Harry a patron of the Games Foundation.
Using a golf simulator room, Lawlor spent the day teaching veterans from around the world who shared their stories of various battles, both physical and mental.
“These guys were trying golf for the first time and making contact with the ball,” said Lawlor. “It only takes one person to get involved and start the game and that can involve more people.”
And what was the swing of the Duke of Sussex like? Not bad, says Lawlor.
“He grabbed the club and I just changed a thing or two and he hit it really well,” added Lawlor. “He was a really good guy.”