Popular Irishman Shane Lowry relishing Saudi visit. He is a regular on the Middle East golfing swing and is currently defending his Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship title in the UAE. Lowry enjoyed a breakout 2019 famously winning his first major, The Open Championship, at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, back in July.
“I have always loved playing out here in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia is a top destination”
The world number 19 heads to King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Saudi Arabia at the end of the month to tee it up at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club host of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers (January 30 – February 2). Lowry speaks about his hopes for the season, with the Ryder Cup looming, as well as the life lessons of playing golf and what Saudi newcomers to golf can experience watching the sport live.
You’ve been in the Middle East, preparing for upcoming Championships. What is great about this region for golfers and golf fans?
I have always loved playing out here in the Middle East. The weather is perfect, the courses are always in pristine condition and provide a challenge that we don’t get to experience for the rest of the year. The area has grown dramatically in the last few years and is continuing to do so, and with it Saudi Arabia has emerged as a top destination.
You had an unbelievable year in 2019, how important is it to carry that into 2020 with a win at Saudi International?
I think it’s very important. Last year was a very special year in my career. Everything came together and I played some of the best golf I have ever played. Of course, it would be great to win in Saudi Arabia and start my season in a positive way as I look to achieve one of my lifelong goals to play the Ryder Cup.
What are your ambitions for the year head and what can fans expect to see from you?
With the Ryder Cup back this year, of course it would be great to qualify for that for the first time. However, I am looking forward to enjoying another season on tour this year and playing new events in my schedule such as the Saudi International is part of that. In terms of what they can expect to see from me, I think I’ll just be trying to have fun and smile out there, like I was in 2019.
“It is great to see so many young people taking up sports in Saudi Arabia and for golf to keep growing internationally”
You are making your debut in Saudi Arabia this year. Talk us through what you expect and are ready for and what you’ve been told about the course.
Shane Lowry is excited to come and play in Saudi Arabia this year for the first time. A lot of the guys on tour said it was a great event in 2019 and the course was in excellent condition. I enjoy visiting new places and I’m looking forward to seeing the venue for myself, play some good golf, and take on some of the best players in the world.
How important is it for golf to be coming to Saudi Arabia and bring the game into new markets?
It is great to see the game continue to grow around the world and for new golf courses like Royal Greens to be in the spotlight. Golf Saudi are doing a lot of work to introduce the game to new people and this can only benefit our sport in the long term. Last year’s leaderboard featured some of the world’s best players and to have someone like Dustin Johnson win the first tournament, you couldn’t ask for much more.
Many people in Saudi Arabia will not have attended a golf championship. What can they expect, and what do fans get from watching the golf live and up close that is just impossible to experience through the TV?
People coming to watch golf for the first time will almost certainly love it. You get to see, feel and be a part of the drama and you can feel the passion the players have for the game. Seeing the game up close and experiencing what the player is going through out on the course is an experience that cannot be replicated watching on the television.
More young people in Saudi Arabia are watching sport or taking up sport. What would you say to encourage them to take up golf and what can they learn from the sport?
It is great to see so many young people taking up sports, whether that is golf or another sport. Golf is easy to enjoy with your family and friends and you can always improve in some aspect and is a sport you can play for the rest of your life. It will teach you to be patient but also show that work brings rewards.
Shane Lowry and his Saudi adventure starts next week.