2019 is a year that belongs to Shane Lowry.
It is 162 days since the boy from County Offaly proved that fairytales can come true when he lifted the Claret Jug in front of a roaring grandstand at Royal Portrush.
The Champion Golfer of the Year has not yet had six months to celebrate, reflect and gaze upon what many are calling the Clara Jug, but as the 32-year-old knows now, it takes longer than that for an Open triumph to sink in.
“It’s still a bit surreal”
“The Claret Jug didn’t leave my side for a few days,” Lowry said of the aftermath.
“I used to bring it in the car with me when I was going somewhere; it came up to the room with me every night.
“I remember one night, I got into bed and realised it wasn’t there, so got out of bed, went downstairs and brought it back up.
“It has sunk in a little bit, but not fully. To be able to achieve something like that, to look at the names on the trophy – that’s the first thing you do and think ‘wow,’ and think that these people had the trophy in their house!
“What an incredible trophy, what an incredible piece of history, and to have my name on that forever, it’s still a bit surreal.
But it was the culmination of a long and winding road for a man who was raised on pitch-and-putts with a couple of clubs in his bag.
A four-time winner on the European Tour when he arrived in Northern Ireland at the back-end of July, Lowry was best known around the golfing world for US Open heartbreak in 2016.
With a four-shot lead heading into Sunday at Oakmont, a nightmare 18 saw him drop six on the day as Dustin Johnson ruthlessly reeled him in.
He knew, therefore the pain of having a major taken away when he thought it was clinched in his grasp, one that many players never recover from.
But Lowry did just that, his confidence in his ability unwavering as he eyed that title that he had always dreamt of.
“I always knew that I was good, always thought that I was good enough, but you never know when it comes to it,” he continued.
“I know how hard this game is; and I know how hard it is to win tournaments; and I know how hard it is to win majors, so to achieve something like that and to do it in the fashion I did it, in Ireland as well, was incredible.”
A cut above
From day one at Portrush Lowry looked a man possessed, a -4 67 had him a shot behind JB Holmes on Thursday, while the two matched one another stroke for stroke to head into the weekend with the gap as narrow as possible.
He hit the front after a sublime 63 on Saturday to go four shots clear of Tommy Fleetwood, his playing partner for the final 18 – and though there were epic celebrations from the home faithful at Portrush, several were quick to point out what had happened in Pennsylvania three years prior.
And Lowry himself was one of them; battling early nerves, he recaptured that mindset that had carried him, deservedly, to the summit.
“I was very nervous on the first tee, for the whole morning. I struggled to eat breakfast and lunch – all I ate was two protein bars all day,” Lowry said.
“It didn’t matter that day. It was incredible. There was one fella I could hear all day shouting ‘come on Tommy,’ most people were shouting for me!
“I got in a place that week that I’d never been in. Saturday, I felt like I was going to birdie every hole, especially the back nine, and then Sunday a lot of things happened, and I think back going ‘if that happened at a different time, I wouldn’t be happy with that.’
“There were things like my mum texting me on Saturday evening to ask if I would mind her coming up tomorrow. I didn’t, but I knew that me, in the past, would have said no chance, we’re tempting fate here!”
“It didn’t matter that day. It was incredible. There was one fella I could hear all day shouting ‘come on Tommy,’ most people were shouting for me!”
A toast to success
In the end, Lowry kept his nerve, banishing those Oakmont thoughts to win over Fleetwood by four.
Lifting the Claret Jug, he knew that his life had changed, his name to be forever etched alongside the game’s all-time greats on the famous trophy.
And understandably so, Lowry reflects fondly on the celebrations that ensued, on a week that he will never forget.
“We went back to the house we were staying in and got all our stuff, because I really wanted to go to my house in Dublin and wake up there,” he explained.
“We got back down there at about one o’clock and I’ve got a very good friend who owns a couple of bars and he organised a party for us.
“We had a great time, everybody was there, all my friends. We left at like seven in the morning and were up fairly quickly the following day and were at it again! That’s what Irish people do!
“Winning the Open and being able to lift the Claret Jug was something that, as a kid from Ireland, you can only dream of and the week afterwards was something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”