Stuart Manley says Craig Bellamy was '˜horrible git'

Welshman Stuart Manley was anything but complimentary about a former Old Firm player after marking his Open Championship debut by getting himself on the leaderboard thanks to holing a bunker shot at the 17th then rolling in a big putt at the last in a grandstand finish to the opening round.

Stuart Manley celebrates on the 18th green after sinking his birdie putt during the Open first round. Picture Ian Rutherford
Stuart Manley celebrates on the 18th green after sinking his birdie putt during the Open first round. Picture Ian Rutherford

Before deciding that golf was going to be his preferred career, the Aberdare man was a promising young footballer, playing against the likes of former England striker Michael Owen and 78-times capped Welsh international Craig Bellamy as they were coming up through the ranks.

He can’t remember too much about locking horns with Owen at county level, but it’s a different story with Bellamy, as Manley revealed after he’d a bout of flu, a sleepless night and some first-tee nerves to card a praiseworthy two-under-par 68 at Royal Birkdale.

“I shouldn’t really say it, but he was a bit of a horrible git,” he said of Bellamy, a man of many clubs, including Liverpool and Newcastle, where he’d fallen out of favour when he was loaned to Celtic, scoring seven goals in 12 games for the Parkhead club in 2005.

“He was nasty. He was a horrible little… I was a centre half, he was a striker.

“I gave him a few kicks and he wasn’t happy. He was just like that all the time.”

Manley, who played for both Cardiff and Swansea as a youngster, could have joined Bellamy and Owen in earning a professional contract, but the 38-year-old has no regrets about opting to become a professional golfer instead on the back of a successful amateur career that included a winning Walker Cup appearance at Ganton in 2003.

“Some people say I should have gone professional or whatever, but, deep down, I didn’t believe I was good enough – nowhere near good enough,” he admitted, with refreshing honesty.

“And I didn’t really enjoy it; I thought it was too much pressure. And I loved golf so much that I thought every time a game was cancelled, ‘great, I can go practise or play golf with my friends’.

“I loved golf. I didn’t really like football. It just got too pressurised. The enjoyment came out of it. I think I was pushed into it too much. But I still follow football and Cardiff is my team. When I see those guys running out on the pitch in front of a full stadium, I think that is pretty special, but I wouldn’t swap it for what I’m doing now.”

He certainly did that pretty well on this occasion, shrugging off an opening-hole bogey, as well as six consecutive missed cuts coming into this event, to produce a pleasing morning’s work, especially after being among the small group of unfortunate players who got the worst of the weather.

“The conditions were pretty bad on that first hole and I was very nervous on the tee,” said Manley.

“But luckily I made contact and I stayed in bounds, so that was nice. After that, I played quite nicely and obviously finished it off in a nice fashion. I didn’t take so many risks.

“I tried plotting my way around. I didn’t feel like I had my game with me today as didn’t warm up too well.

“I had too many layers and I didn’t get any rhythm on the range. So I thought, OK, this is the game I’ve got. I’m just going to have to plot my way around, and it seemed to work, capping it off with a great finish to make the score a little bit better.”

He said his legs had “felt heavy” and he was also a “bit nosey” for a first taste of golf’s oldest major that had come after a sleepless night.

“I tried to go to bed early, but I was maybe too excited and didn’t get to sleep until quite late,” added Manley.

“I have a six-month-old baby and he woke up at 3am 
needing his dummy to be put back in.

“I think I’ll sleep a lot better tonight. I’m really pretty tired,” he concluded.