Although the competitive golf season is well and truly over, James Sugrue was back in the news last week when he picked up an award. He was one of two recipients for golf at Mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy’s Co Council reception last week. Although Sugrue didn’t hit the high of a championship win, he continued to progress with two local wins and some great individual performances during the year. The season was book-ended by his two wins, the first in the Fota Island Senior Scratch Cup in early April, and the second in September when he won the John Whyte Fermoy Senior Scratch Cup to close out the season. The two wins may be highlights, but to be fair the Mallow golfer has had a very impressive summer of golf which was recognised with his selection to the Irish team. Sugrue joined the Irish Mens panel this year and represented the Irish selection at the South African and Spanish Amateurs in the early season, and in October he travelled to South America for two international events. His full cap finally came when he was selected to play for the Home Internationals which took place last week. Capped on multiple occasions in Boy’s golf, this was a big step up for Sugrue but one he took in his stride.
The easy going 20 year old went on to win four matches as Ireland finished as runners-up in the four team tournament. “There was actually no real difference, I didn’t feel as if I was under any extra pressure. I know all the lads and I know Neil Manchip for a long time as well” said James. “I was really happy with the way I played down the stretch in a few matches. In the opening foursomes we were two up with three to play and I hit an approach to around six inches to close out the match. On the second day I had a four iron on a par three into the wind, and I managed to get it to inside a foot to close out that match.” You can feel the confidence in Sugrue as he tells that story. There was another incident when his opponent was involved in a ruling, Sugrue stood his ground where previously he may have stepped back and allowed the opponent get an upper hand.
Although he’s only turning 21 later this month, Sugrue showed a maturity this year that should serve him well over through 2019. He’s looking to repeat the consistency that he built on this season. “It was a fairly good season to be honest, it was very solid and that’s what I wanted” said the Mallow Man. “Last year would have a been a poor year outside of the South so I was much happier to play solidly throughout the year. My focus this year was to build on the work from last year. Winning last year gave me a fair bit of confidence and bringing that through to this year was important. Previously I struggled with shooting a very low number, but this year when I got to eight under in Baltray it felt great, and I went on to shoot a few more deep scores after that. It definitely helped with my confidence.” Deep scores, those in the mid 60’s are gamechangers and Sugrue had a share of them this season. That eight under par 64 in Co Louth was followed by a 68 in the North in tough conditions at Portrush, and a 66 in the South at Lahinch. And even when the scoring was little higher Sugrue was able to make it count. At the Irish Close in Wicklow he shot rounds of 73/74 but still finished in the top 20 in a field of over 130 golfers. In matchplay he was consistent also, reaching the final 32 in the British Amateur and the North of Ireland, while reaching the final 16 in the South and the Irish Close. He recorded three wins and a half as part of the winning Munster team at the Interpro’s, and last week he had four wins and a half in green when Ireland were narrowly beaten in the Home Internationals. While he might have had hopes of retaining his South of Ireland title, the odds were against him. It’s over 50 years since anyone retained the famous trophy. Although he didn’t win, Sugrue reached the final 16, meaning he won eight matches on the trot over the two years. It was that sort of consistency that his rise over 400 places in the amateur rankings. Among other events, cuts made at the British Amateur, the North, South and Close saw his WAGR ranking jump from 960 to a career high placing just outside the top 500.