Monday 18 December 2017

Prodigy 'Manny' hails Irish caddie

Italian youngster Matteo Manassero kisses the trophy after winning the Castellon Masters yesterday.Photo:AP
Italian youngster Matteo Manassero kisses the trophy after winning the Castellon Masters yesterday.Photo:AP

Bernie McGuire at Castellon

Young Italian sensation Matteo Manassero singled out Coleraine caddie Ryan McGuigan for special praise after becoming the youngest winner on the European Tour in capturing a four-stroke victory in the Castello Masters.

Manassero, at 17 years and 188 days old, is a year and 25 days younger than when New Zealand's Danny Lee -- while still an amateur -- landed the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia.

As a full European Tour member, Manassero is a dozen days younger than Seve Ballesteros when he captured his first of 77 pro Tour wins at the 1974 Campeonato Nacional Para Sub 25.

Last year, 'Manny' also became the youngest winner of the British Amateur.

The Turin-born player won by four strokes yesterday courtesy of a last-round 67 for a 16-under-par winning tally to earn a two-year Tour exemption in just his 10th full Tour event since turning pro in May's BMW Italian Open.

"It certainly feels unbelievable and while it's tough to explain my reactions, I am very happy," he said.

Manassero collected a first prize of €333,330 along with a start in next fortnight's $7m WGC-HSBC Champions event and the assurance of a place in the season-ending $7.5m Dubai World Championship after moving to 44th on the money list.

But at the age of 17, the Italian is not allowed to drink or drive, and so could struggle to spend his earnings.

"I'm not old enough to drive and I don't have a girlfriend to spend the money on," he said laughing. "So I really have nothing to spend my money on -- but the most important gift for me is the two-year Tour exemption."

He and McGuigan first teamed up at this year's Dubai Desert Classic and since then the 30-year old McGuigan, who had his first win with fellow Ulsterman Michael Hoey, have gelled superbly.

Manassero turned pro in May and secured his Tour card just five events later, with a third place in the Omega European Masters.

"The very important thing about a player and the caddie is that they can speak together and they can say things to each other," he said. "Ryan and I get on very well together. We are a good team and we have gelled very well in such a short time.

"He's also a really nice guy. He's a very precise guy who wants to do things very well, so that is very important for me; he's very much a big part of my win."

Spain's Ignacio Garrido (68) was a distant second on 12-under-par, while Dublin's Peter Lawrie (70) shared third place at 11-under-par with three others.

It is Lawrie's second top-three finish this year and his eighth top-10. He moved up seven spots into 33rd on the Race to Dubai money list.

However, he left the course somewhat disappointed to have mixed just two birdies, at the third and 14th, among 16 pars before dropping a shot at 17.

"It's another top three and I am pretty pleased at that, but today didn't go as planned," said Lawrie. "I just couldn't get things working."


Gareth Maybin posted his best score of the event -- a four-under-par 67 for a share of 19th place at seven-under -- and dropped a spot to 60th on the money list.

Damien McGrane was two strokes further back after also signing for a 67, while Paul McGinley had moved to two-under-par for the event but then doubled the last in a 71.

Shane Lowry's Race to Dubai position continues to slide, with the former Irish Open winner slipping from 62nd to 64th on the money list after a 72 for a three-over-par tally.

Belfast's Hoey suffered a disappointing final-day 78 for a six-over-par total.

And it was a sad ending for double Augusta-winning Jose Maria Olazabal in his first event since July's French Open. The Spaniard was disqualified for signing for a five on the par-four 17th when he in fact had a six.

He said: "It's a bit of a bummer but I guess when things go wrong, they go wrong."

Irish Independent

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