OAKMONT, Pa. -- Shane Lowry still has a long way to go before he can be declared the winner of this 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, but more than 3,000 miles away, at Lowry’s home club of Esker Hills, a party already is underway.
Sunday just so happens to be Captain’s Day at Esker Hills, a tight-knit club on a lush, rolling plot in County Offaly, Ireland. The pints are flowing and the barroom is jumping, with three TVs tuned to the U.S. Open. Among the crowd: production crews from Sky Sports and RTE.
“The whole country will be pulling for him,” said club director Donal Molloy, when reached by phone on Sunday afternoon. “He’s immensely popular.”
Molloy said Lowry has played at Esker Hills since he was about 14. Lowry was “obsessed” with the game and an “absolute natural.”
“Golf was more important to him than school,” Molloy said.
Lowry’s immediate family won’t be among the revelers at Esker Hills. His father, Brendan (a former Gaelic football player), and younger brother, Alan (a standout amateur golfer), are on the grounds at Oakmont. Shane’s mother Bridget is back in Ireland but would rather agonize over the telecast in the comfort and solitude of her own home.
“She’ll have the rosary beads out, I’d say,” Molloy said.
Lowry’s father won’t be hard to spot at Oakmont. He’s sporting the same rugged beard as his son. The father started growing it several weeks back, before Shane grew his, and Shane told his old man that he couldn’t shave it until Shane won another tournament.
Time to sharpen the razor? We'll find out shortly.