UTRGV Baseball Coach Switches to Golf

Manny Mantrana, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s head baseball coach for the past nine years and a professional coach for 27 years, resigned last month and he never thought he would accept a position as the institution’s next women’s golf coach.

In his younger years, Mantrana played baseball for Middle Georgia, helping them to the 1983 National Junior College Athletic Association World Series. He also played two seasons for LSU, and signed professional contracts with the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets before beginning coaching in 2009.  

With just a week before the season was set to begin, women’s head golf coach Rise Alexander resigned to pursue other professional opportunities after three seasons at UTRGV. The athletics department was looking for a short-term replacement until a full-time head coach could be hired. Other than just playing golf as a hobby for 15 years, Mantrana has no coaching experience in the sport, and he explained that he is only assuming an interim position.

“I’m holding down the fort and handling the coaching duties until they can find another women’s golf coach,” he said.

Mantrana coached baseball for four seasons at the Miami Jackson High School and then became an assistant at Miami Dade College. Shortly after, he accepted a head coach position with the St. Thomas Bobcats where he remained for 12 seasons. He compiled a record of 434-193-1 and was honored as the Southeast Coach of the Year and Florida Sun Conference Coach of the Year three times each. He closed out this chapter coaching at UTRGV with 210 wins. Never once has he coached golf.

Mantrana praised Alexander’s coaching abilities, acknowledging the great group of women he gets to coach.

“The girls are very self-sufficient and they are doing what they need to do to become the best golfers they can be,” he said. Throughout this process, Mantrana will be relying on other’s expertise. “I will be relying on Coach Tate, for quite a bit and the paperwork Alexander left for me to follow.”

Coach Philip Tate, the current men’s golf coach welcomes the chance to work so closely with the old baseball coach and feels like Mantrana has what it takes to lead the women’s golf team for the next month.

“It turned out to be an excellent appointment. I know he does not feel like he cannot do it. He is definitely confident and knows there will be some challenges and some things that are unexpected. But I think his background is going to allow him to cope for those unexpected things,” Tate said.

Tate also expressed that due to Mantrana’s coaching experience he will do well switching sports.

“He will be able to make that transition from baseball to golf strictly based on his ability to organize, be disciplined, and motivate,” he said.

Respect for each other and a working friendship between the two coaches are definitely evident as Tate offered that he and Mantrana have played golf together in the past. Contrary to what Mantrana said, Tate believes he could really enjoy coaching the team in the future.

“He can continue if he really adapts and falls in love with it,” Tate said.

Although some of the players are disappointed to lose their long-term coach and friend, most of them are optimistic about their upcoming season. Senior 21-year-old Jessica Smith from Gold Beach, Oregon, thinks the interim coach is suitable and announces that she is looking forward to a more relaxed and less pressurized start to her final season at UTRGV.

“Coach Mantrana has always been positive and he was always very nice and supportive of our team. There are definitely more positives than negatives,” she said.

Smith does admit to being anxious about changing coaches so suddenly.

“I was a little nervous because I have never had another coach in college besides Coach Alexander,” she said.

Smith talked about Mantrana’s mental focus.

“He knows a lot about golf and he knows a lot about the mental aspect of it which is something I feel that us as a team can always improve on,” she said.

Junior golfer Shweta Mansingh of Guragaon, India, is less optimistic than Smith, but appraises Mantrana for his attributes and coaching abilities.

“It’s definitely not a positive to lose our coach looking at it right now, but maybe this will give us confidence and belief in ourselves. Coach Manny himself is highly positive and keeps us motivated and is very knowledgeable,” she said.

Mansingh was asked if having the new the coach has affected her play in a good way.

“Personally it has not. I feel like he’s helping me grow mentally though,” she said.

Mansingh is looking to the future of the program despite the harsh circumstances they are going through now and believes in herself and the team to push through.

“He’s not a permanent coach for us. So we really appreciate him stepping up and filling in for us, making sure we are not affected,” she said. “I’m not worried because I trust and believe in my team, coach or no coach we can take care of ourselves and handle the situation.”

During their first tournament, Sept. 11-12, women’s golf took the 10th spot in the Hobble Creak Fall Classic in Utah.