Neil Manchip - the Edinburgh coach behind Shane Lowry's rise from amateur to Open winner
Scotland’s loss has been Ireland’s gain. Shane Lowry would be the first to admit, after all, that he would never have become a major winner without the influence of Neil Manchip and that is just the latest in a string of notable achievements during the Edinburgh man’s tenure as the Golfing Union of Ireland’s national coach.
Manchip cut his golfing teeth at Turnhouse, where he began his coaching career under Kevan Whitson before following his mentor to Royal County Down in 1992. Based in Ireland ever since, he took up a post at Royal Dublin in 1999 before starting in his current role six years later.
He’s guided Lowry throughout his career, coaching him to a sensational success as an amateur in the 2009 Irish Open at Baltray before chalking up four professional titles, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and, earlier this season, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, a Rolex Series event.
Manchip is a decent player himself, as he showed when beating a field that included both Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley to win the 1999 Irish PGA Championship at The Island. He’s also been occasionally employed by Lowry as a caddie, including last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie after he decided to part ways with his long-time bagman, Dermot Byrne.
It’s mainly his coaching qualities, though, that have made him such a huge asset for Irish golf. Four years ago, he watched on with pride as five players from the Emerald Isle represented Great Britain & Ireland in a winning Walker Cup team at Royal Lytham.
Equally pleasing was guiding Ireland to a title hat-trick in the men’s Home Internationals at Nairn in 2016 and, just last month, one of the new crop of youngsters he works with, James Sugrue, pictured, underlined his potential when producing a brilliant performance in the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.
“When I started as GUI national coach, I think there were seven or eight provincial coaches,” said Manchip in an interview with The Scotsman just under four years ago.
“Now we have just over 25 at the grassroots level, so it is a lot more robust than it was. Our competition programme has also improved and got bigger over the last six or seven years.
“We’ve added tournaments abroad and we’ve got good players coming through that can compete in those events.
“It’s a great golfing environment. It’s a great sporting environment all round, in fact. I’m really into the Gaelic Games. It’s about providing an environment where the players can get the best out of themselves. When they come into squads, a lot have their own coaches already and we are very keen for them to continue
working with them. We just fill in the gaps where and when they need it.”
His work behind the scenes saw him pick up the John Jacobs Award, a coveted coaching accolade in 2015. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” said Lowry of Manchip at the time and on numerous occasions, including here earlier this week, the Offaly man spoke about the pair’s strong relationship.
“We put everything out on the table and we talk about everything, scenarios, what could happen,” he said. “And I think when I’m very open with him about how I’m feeling, I think that’s when I can get the best out of myself and I think that’s what he does, he gets the best out of me that way by I suppose making me talk about how I’m feeling.
“When I’m nervous I like to talk about it. There’s no point bottling it up. Because if I bottle it up I’m going to become too anxious or nervous.
“And there’s been certain times in the past – one particular moment I can remember and this kind of summarises what kind of relationship we have.
“He caddied for me in Valderrama, years ago. I was playing, had a chance to win the tournament, playing the 17th.
“We got down and did the number and I said to him, I’m absolutely shitting myself. And he was just like, ‘that’s kind of the way it is’. I like to talk about things.
“Neil knows more about me than anyone. So we’re very close.”
Lowry certainly won’t be letting Manchip leave Ireland and, by the sounds of things, the man himself is happy to be staying on the opposite side of the Irish Sea from his homeland.
“I’ve certainly not got any intentions of leaving Ireland as I love living over here,” he declared with gusto in that interview in 2015.