EDINBURGH man Neil Manchip is hoping Irish eyes will be smiling in this year’s Open Championship at Muirfield.
Manchip, who cut his golfing teeth at Turnhouse, is now in his eighth year as the Golfing Union of Ireland’s national coach.
He has already steered the Irish to glory in the Home Internationals at Muirfield as they won the four-cornered event there in 2008.
Now he’s looking forward to heading back to the East Lothian venue in July with his star pupil, world No. 54 Shane Lowry.
A member of that title- winning team five years ago, Lowry showed his potential when winning the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009.
He followed that up with his first pro victory in last year’s Portugal Masters, and Manchip believes the 25-year-old has got the game to become a challenger in majors as well.
“Shane is a very talented guy,” said Manchip, a decent player himself, having held off Darren Clarke to win the Irish PGA Championship in 1999.
“One of my jobs is to try and keep him being himself and his progress will be steady. He’s got a great short game and his iron play has come on a lot.
“Driving has probably always been a strong point and he’s a good putter, too. So he’s definitely got the whole game, as have a lot of the guys out here. It’s all about trying to keep your head when it matters most.
“It will be exciting for me to be at Muirfield this year. The last time I was there Ireland won the Home Internationals and I was talking to Shane about that recently.
“We were recalling how much fun we had that week. We had a really good team, the guys loved the course and we beat everyone by a good score. I think it was Ireland’s best-ever week in the Home Internationals.”
After a spell as an assistant pro at Turnhouse, Manchip moved to Ireland and was the head teaching pro at Royal Dublin before he moved to the GUI.
“I’m loving it as we have new players coming through all the time and it’s great so see what young lads can do as well as keeping an eye on progress of players as they get older, either as amateurs or professionals,” he said.
“It is very difficult for players to make the journey from amateur level all the way to the top of the ladder as it is as much about managing your life as it is about playing golf while there’s also the travel aspect as well.”
As Lowry’s coach, Manchip travels to the occasional European Tour event to watch him in the competitive arena and was out in Durban last week for the Volvo Golf Champions with him.
“I started with the GUI in 2005 and Shane got into the under-18 squad for the first them then – so we set out at the same time,” he added. “It’s good for me to come out to European Tour events with him as I can relate things to our amateurs.
“Shane is also good at coming along and either spending some time, hitting balls of playing a few holes with the young lads.
“Some guys get better and better, but, at the same time, others fall out of the picture. It is equally satisfying for me to see players doing well at both levels.”
Manchip keeps an eye on Scottish golf and was impressed watching Richie Ramsay when he partnered Lowry in one of the rounds in the South African event.
But, by the sounds of things, it’s the Irish who look as though they’re going to continue to reap the rewards of his expertise as a coach.
“My mum and dad are both still in Corstorphine while my sister is across in Dunfermline. I still go back there whenever I can to visit them,” he said.
“But I’m married to an Irish girl and, to be honest, I’d be quite happy to stay there for the rest of my life. I’m very happy there.”