Brendan Lawlor joins birdie blitz at ISPS HANDA Championship Japan as Sullivan, Kim lead way

Brendan Lawlor joins birdie blitz at ISPS HANDA Championship Japan as Sullivan, Kim lead way 1920 1280 ISPS Handa

While fans were admiring a hot 63 from Andy Sullivan, the Englishman could admire how playing partner Brendan Lawlor is changing the game for golfers with a disability. 

Irishman Lawlor’s pride in playing on the grand stage of the ISPS HANDA Championship Japan is being matched by the awe of his fellow pros. Lawlor admitted his 11-over-par 81 was not his best golf but he did grab one of the best birdies of the opening round at the PGM Ishioka Golf Club, north-east of Tokyo. Faced with a vast array of bunkers down the left side of the longest par three on the course and a tucked left pin, Lawlor hit a sweet three wood pin high 230 yards away and rolled in a 15-foot putt for birdie. 

“I’ve played with Brendan a few times now. He’s a really talented golfer. The back tees at this course just made the length challenging for him,” said Sullivan, who rolled in eight birdies of his own. “Great guy and he’s pushed disabled golf to the elevated heights you see now. Hopefully, it goes from strength to strength.” 

Lawlor is a standard-bearer for the vision of Dr Haruhisa Handa, chairman of the International Sports Promotion Society (ISPS HANDA). Sport’s power to change lives and broaden outlooks is evident every time he stands on the tee. The engaging Lawlor, 26, changes people’s perceptions. The Irishman from Louth village, outside Dundalk, was born with the rare bone disorder Ellis-van Creveld Syndrome.  

His shorter stature and shorter limbs have always seemed less of a handicap because he’s always been focussed on what he can achieve, not what he can’t. “Big man. Small body. Massive,” said proud mum Marie of her son playing in the DP World Tour event. 

Lawlor’s positive attitude has driven him to become a professional golfer and the first disabled golfer to play on the DP World Tour in 2020. Father Billy is caddie in Japan. Marie walked the course and her smile said it all. 

“I’m so proud of Brendan and I would be even if he wasn’t playing golf,” Marie said. “The way he carries himself, the way he engages with all types of people, his personality, not being intimidated…all those things are part of his success.” 

Lawlor was delighted to take away the highlight at the long par three eighth, which he played as his 17th hole. “That was nice. It was my highlight of the day. It was playing a 230 pin so I cut a little three wood in there, it got a nice wee kick and rolled out to about 15 foot. Thankfully, one putt,” Lawlor said. 

“It’s a true honour to be on this stage and spread the word about disability golf to show that anything is possible. I try to surround myself with the best golfers so I can see how my game stands up.” Lawlor was delighted to show improvement with a seven-over 77 in the second round. He again produced a shot for the TV cameras…a wedge escape on the par four seventh that hit the pin and enabled him to save par.

Sullivan shared the first round lead on seven-under-par with Korean Yeong-su Kim, who rolled in seven birdies in his bogey-free round. 

The roll on the pure greens was a treat for the Japanese and DP World Tour players who make up the bulk of the field for the first DP World Tour event staged in Japan. In all, 68 players finished at two-under or better in an opening round of low scoring. 

Nine nations were represented among the 13 players at six-under or better in the opening round, a true reflection of the worldwide embrace this tournament is aiming to achieve.