Tuesday 25 July 2017

Manchip finds range to get one up on star pupil Lowry

Karl MacGinty at Seapoint

COACH Neil Manchip turned birdie-poacher at Seapoint yesterday, outshooting his star pupil Shane Lowry by three as he swept to within one shot of Damian Mooney's first-round lead with a sweet 67 at the Ladbrokes Irish Professional Championship.

Manchip (37), who has been national coach to the Golfing Union of Ireland since 2005, stirred memories of his victory over Darren Clarke and a host of other Tour stars in this championship 11 years ago, with the superior quality of his iron play and putting yesterday.

Delighted for once to have the bragging rights over Lowry, the proud Scotsman said with a smile: "Shane normally shows me the way and gives me a good slagging for my lack of distance."

Lowry, whose sensational Irish Open victory at neighbouring Baltray ranks with Ireland's two recent European Team Championship successes as the proudest moments of Manchip's coaching career, was among the first to congratulate his mentor.

"Obviously Neil can play. I couldn't believe it when I saw him at 66/1 in the betting," said Lowry, who could barely suppress a grin as he turned to Manchip and quipped: "It played into your hands today with a few nice forward tees there."

prodigious

Lowry himself "played alright but had a couple of stupid bogeys". He was pleased to pick up three birdies in his final five holes for a 70 and a share of fifth on two-under.

Belfast boomer Mooney certainly put his prodigious hitting power to good use with a superlative 66 which included seven birdies in a sensational nine-hole stretch from 16.

Mooney, who stitched together an impressive string of eight threes in nine holes, insisted "all the credit must go to Johnny Foster", the former Irish international who is club pro at Greenacres in Carrickfergus.

"Johnny's been coaching me for two months. He's the best I've ever seen," he said.

Course designer Des Smyth enthused: "Damien played great and hit the ball brilliantly. He's a real power hitter. He drove it straight over the bunker at 12 and that's a 270-yards carry."

Smyth (57), who won on the European Seniors Tour just three weeks ago, shot a "satisfying" 69, leaving him tied third with Donegal's Brian McElhinney. "I played okay, scrambled well but putted erratically," said Smyth, who had two three-putts on his card.

Tournament favourite Damien McGrane opened with a nightmare double-bogey seven at 10, where he took two to get out of a fairway bunker and then three-putted. Three over after four holes, the Meath man then showed his trademark resilience, landing birdies at 16, 17, 18 and seven, for a 71, leaving him among the 23 players under par.

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