Harrington takes the long view

Tue, May 19, 2009, 01:00

EUROPEAN TOUR SHANE LOWRY’S IRISH OPEN SUCCESS:WILL HE, won’t he? When? As sure as night follows day, Shane Lowry – still coming to terms with his status as the Irish Open champion – will turn professional.

Yesterday, however, the 22-year-old Offalyman bought some breathing space by opting not to join the paid ranks immediately and, although that meant forfeiting an opportunity to play in this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, it was a decision that indicates the move, whenever it comes, will be at a time of his choosing.

The big dilemma for Lowry is whether he wants to wait until after the Walker Cup, a match which doesn’t take place until September at Merion in Pennsylvania.

Refusing to join the bandwagon of those urging him to make the switch sooner rather than later, Pádraig Harrington yesterday suggested that Lowry – who has entered the official world rankings in 168th position after his victory at Baltray, ahead of Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley – would be better served waiting until after the biennial match between Britain and Ireland team and the United States.

Harrington, who delayed his move to the professional ranks until after he had played in three Walker Cups and obtained a degree in accountancy, said: “Shane has a lot of big decisions to make and it would be hard to make them with a clear head (now).

“What would I do if I was him? If I was 22 years of age, I don’t know what I would do. You’ve only limited experience at that stage. But at 37 years of age, as I am, and looking back, what should he do? He will have 28 years to play on the regular tour, three months to play as an amateur.”

Harrington explained: “He has plenty of time left to play professional golf, only a limited time to play amateur. Looking back on my career, I have won three majors and I still rate playing three Walker Cups very highly on my achievements. I still look back on that as a mainstay of my career.

“Me looking back, the decision is easy enough. Why does he need to play professional golf for the next three months, he is going to have the next 28 years at least.”

Harrington added: “If he believes he is good enough, and winning the Irish Open says he is, then he has to believe in himself – and turning pro is not believing in yourself. Staying and playing the Walker Cup and trusting that your game will be as good from September onwards is believing in yourself.

“He’ll only get one opportunity to play in the Walker Cup, that would be my attitude to it. I know, from my own career, when you see my bio, it has three majors and three Walker Cups. It counts, it is a big deal. If you only get one opportunity in life to play Walker Cup, it is a big deal.”

Colin Dalgleish, the captain of the BI team, shared Harrington’s view.

“It remains to be seen and we will live with whatever he decides,” said Dalgleish, “but the exemption allows Shane to take his time. He can now turn pro on his terms and I am very hopeful that he will play the Walker Cup. It has a great profile in America.”

Of Lowry’s win, Harrington observed: “It’s fabulous for Irish golf, for the sponsors. It keeps everyone happy. You only have to look at the fact it is such a rarity for an amateur to win, such a rarity for an Irish player to win the Irish Open. So, on a lot of fronts, it is a big deal. It was very impressive.

“He’d four great days. It was so impressive to back up his 62 on Friday with Saturday, and then Sunday’s (performance) tops it all. I’ve only met him at the (Irish) Golf Writers’ awards and he seems a confident lad, which you need (on tour). With a two-year exemption, there’s no rush.”

Lowry, for his part, made only one decision yesterday as he sought to take in the enormity of his achievement: that was to inform the PGA European Tour that he wouldn’t be playing in the tour’s flagship event at Wentworth this week. “Even if I was going to turn professional, I wouldn’t take up that invite . . . it would be too soon. I’d be under a lot of pressure to play well over there.”

He added: “I’m going to think about it over the next few days, I’ve a lot of people to sit down and talk with. I’ll make that decision probably on Wednesday or Thursday and see what happens from there.

“I’m not going to jump into anything. It is very tempting . . . I can’t see myself playing amateur golf after what’s happened. It would be a big step down, and I wouldn’t have any interest in it really.”

All of which would indicate, perhaps, that Lowry is more inclined to move into the professional game soon to take up that precious two-year exemption. Could we see him at next week’s European Open at the London Club? Or the following week’s Wales Open at Celtic Manor?

Apart from the two-year exemption (which in reality is closer to two-and-a-half, taking him to the end of the 2011 season), Lowry would also be eligible, as the Irish Open champion, to play in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron if he turns pro.

Adding to the intrigue, that World Golf Championship event takes place ahead of the Walker Cup. Decisions. Decisions.

It is a great place to be in. No matter what decision he makes, it is the right one. It’s win-win.