Saturday 21 September 2019

Sugrue joins Amateur legends list

James Sugrue with the trophy following the final day of the R&A Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
James Sugrue with the trophy following the final day of the R&A Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Mallow's James Sugrue followed in the footsteps of Cork great Jimmy Bruen when he became the eighth Irishman to win the Amateur Championship, with a nail-biting one-hole win over Scotland's Euan Walker at Portmarnock.

The 22-year-old now looks almost certain to make the Walker Cup team for September's clash with the USA at Royal Liverpool. But he's also now exempt for The Open at Portrush, the US Amateur at Pinehurst from August 12-18, next year's US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, he can look forward to receiving a precious invitation to play in the Masters at Augusta National next year.

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"Unbelievable," Sugrue said. "It's hard to put into words, to be honest.

"Obviously I am delighted to win this Championship. I don't think it has sunk in yet. It was a really long day today and I thought I was in trouble after going into the afternoon session three up and was then level playing 16.

"I thought I was in a bit of bother but thankfully par on 17 won the hole and up the last, a bogey won it so I am just delighted." It was an epic victory by Sugrue, who made his breakthrough at Lahinch two years ago, winning the South of Ireland Championship.

He proved he's a world-class player yesterday by coming through an energy-sapping 36-hole battle with 23-year-old Walker, the world number 71. Five up after nine holes and three up after the morning round, Sugrue saw his huge lead gradually whittled away by the Kilmarnock Barassie man.

It was gone by the 33rd when he bogeyed the iconic par-three 15th in front of an excited crowd that had swelled to almost 3,000 by the time the final was coming to a climax. But he dug deep to etch his name alongside those of Bruen, Max McCready, Joe Carr, Garth McGimpsey, Michael Hoey, Brian McElhinney and Alan Dunbar on the famous old trophy, two-putting from 60 feet for a nerveless half in birdie at the 16th before winning the 17th.

He had luck on his side at the 18th, when he hopped out of a fairway bunker onto short grass and Walker carved his tee shot 30 yards right.

But while Sugrue overshot the green, Walker too went long from light rough and failed to get his risky third with a putter on the green. Sugrue faced a tricky chip but with Walker in trouble, he pitched 18 feet beyond the hole and, after lagging his par putt 18 inches past, he was conceded the match by the dogged Walker.

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