Sunday 18 August 2019

The coach, the management and the entourage - Inside the team that helped Shane Lowry triumph at the Open

Shane Lowry's coach Neil Manchip (left), manager Conor Ridge (centre) and close friend Dara Lernihan (right).
Shane Lowry's coach Neil Manchip (left), manager Conor Ridge (centre) and close friend Dara Lernihan (right).

Brian Keogh

Shane Lowry made history when he became the fifth Irishman to win The Open and the first to lift the Claret Jug on Irish soil.

His six-shot win at Royal Portrush was one of the most impressive Open Championship victories of all time but it wasn’t achieved alone.

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Lowry has a team of family, friends and advisors around him who helped him prepare for victory at the Open, and he paid tribute to them after his big win.

"I suppose I didn't even know going out this morning if I was good enough to win a major," he said. "I knew I was able to put a few days together.

"I knew I was able to play the golf course. I just went out there and tried to give my best. And look, I'm here now, a major champion. I can't believe I'm saying it, to be honest.

"I think the people around me really believed that I could, which helped me an awful lot. I do remember a lot of times in the past when I'm down on myself and serious chats with [coach] Neil [Manchip], he always said that I was going to win one, at least one, he said. So I suppose when the people around you really believe in you, it helps you an awful lot."

Here are the people closest to Lowry who play a big role in his career.

Family

Lowry dedicated his win to his parents, Brendan and Bridget, who backed him from the start.

"What can I say," he said as he cradled the Claret Jug on the 18th green, almost overcome with the emotion of it all. "They sacrificed so much for me when I was younger and I am so happy I can hand them this trophy tonight."

After proposing on a Dubai beach in 2014, he married Laois native Wendy Honner in a low-key New York ceremony the week after playing in the 2016 Masters Tournament.

"The guest list [was spiralling] and I get stressed very easily, so we decided the big white wedding at home was not what we wanted," Lowry said. They now have a two-year-old girl, Iris and live near Rathgar in Dublin.

Family life and fatherhood has helped Lowry remain grounded and keep golf in perspective.

The caddy

Ardglass man Brian 'Bo' Martin has made a huge difference to Lowry since they hooked up at the Portugal Masters last September. Having lost his full PGA Tour privileges, Lowry had not had a top-10 finish since November 2017 but the duo finished sixth on the Algarve and went on to win in Abu Dhabi in January. Having caddied for the likes of Gary Murphy, Peter Lawrie, Frenchman Alexander Levy and Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Martin had taken a step back from the tour to concentrate on business interests but he put them on hold last year to help Lowry fulfill his potential.

The coach

Neil Manchip is also the Golfing Union of Ireland's National Coach and after more than a decade together, his calm, common sense, non-technical  approach has been key. Married to a Mayo women, the Scot is as much a mental coach as a golf coach to the Offaly golfer. Their regular chats over coffee and their post-round knockabouts — they've been known to bring a hurley and sliotar or a rugby ball away on tour for evening relaxation — are as important as any work they do on the practice ground.

The management team

Lowry has been with Horizon Sports Management since he won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and turned professional the following week. The boutique management company founded by Conor Ridge formerly managed Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, and currently looks after golfers Lowry and Ross Fisher as well as rugby stars Peter O'Mahony and Johnny Sexton. Lowry's close friend, Brian Moran, handles Lowry's day-to-day affairs on tour. Horizon negotiated sponsorship deals with Bank of Ireland, Kingspan, Srixon and and he owns equity in global payroll software company Immedis. He’s also a Paddy Power ambassador.

The entourage

Lowry has a wide circle of friends and remains close to his Clara roots. However, Bray Golf Club professional Dara Lernihan, who stood in as caddie at the Irish Open when Bo Martin was at the birth of his first child, is one of his closest friends. Businessman Alan Clancy, a leading player in the pub business and owner of 37 Dawson where the celebrations kicked off on Sunday night, is a regular at events worldwide with others such as actor Laurence Kinlan and Leinster rugby player Darragh Fanning also close to the new Open champion.

His peers

Major winners Pádraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are close friends and they've been inspirational for Lowry in his quest for a major of his own.

"I grew up holing putts back home to win The Open," Lowry said. "It was always The Open, wasn't it? I watched Paddy win his two Opens. I didn't even know him back then. I'm obviously very good friends with him. To have him there on the 18th, like you go into Paddy's house and the Claret Jug is sitting on the kitchen table, and I'm going to have one on my kitchen table, as well. I said that to him, as well, that's going to be quite nice."

The fitness coach

An Irish international and the current Irish Amateur Close champion, Balbriggan native Robbie Cannon is a respected Strength and Conditioning coach and he's helped Lowry make major gains in distance, stamina and flexibility over the past five years.

"He trains hard on his weeks off as he has more recovery time and during tournament weeks he does two light sessions," Cannon said. "He is a very focused guy and mentally very tough. Shane played a lot of sports growing up and thanks to this he has really fantastic movement skills. You don't swing the golf club as sweetly as he does without them."

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