Winners from 2020 can Smile

There weren’t too many winners in Cork golf in 2020, but those few that did manage to claim success will look back on the year with a smile.  After losing eight weeks in the spring, and with graduated protocols for a return to competitive golf, the national and regional schedules changed dramatically with far fewer individual and inter-club events taking place.  Berehaven made history in October when the West Cork club won their first Munster title.  They won the Munster final of the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield in Killarney   Wins over Tramore and Shannon saw them emerge from Killarney with the pennant as Munster champions, their first time the club had achieved success at this level.  Unfortunately for Berehaven, the plans for the all-Ireland finals in Donegal in late October were postponed.  The 2020 finals are now scheduled to take place in Donegal in 2021.

Peter O’Keeffe pictured after winning the Munster Strokeplay in August.
Picture: Niall O’Shea

Peter O’Keeffe won the Munster Strokeplay in Cork Golf Club in early September.  The traditional May date for the competition was lost but it was great that it was included in the reduced schedule for the second half of the year.  The Cork Scratch Cup was renamed the Munster Strokeplay Championship over a decade ago.  While Cork golfers would regularly win the event in the past, that task is a little harder now as the championship attracts the top Irish amateurs.  Cathal Butler was the last Cork golfer to win in 2016 and before that it was Kieran McCarthy in 2013.  O’Keeffe was in good form entering the event and he cited patience as one of the keys to winning the 72 hole event.  O’Keeffe was four off the lead at the halfway stage, but having opened with two 70’s he was playing well.  He eased clear of the field in the third round thanks to a super six under par round of 66.  That saw him lead the tournament by three, but he eventually went on to win by seven strokes.  A final round of 68 (-4) was an impressive and fitting way to finish for the Douglas golfer.  After five years back in the amateur game O’Keeffe collected his second major trophy, having won the Irish Amateur Open in Royal County Down in 2017.

John Murphy

Kinsale’s John Murphy started 2020 in Kentucky in his senior year in Louisville.  Ranked in the top 100 in the world rankings he was looking forward to continuing his early season form.  He won the Dorado Beach Collegiate championship in February but like everyone else his season took an enforced break in March.  He returned to Ireland and practiced for the early summer before returning to Kentucky in August.  He won his second event back in the US, the GCAA Amateur in Georgia and late last year he was named in the Walker Cup extended panel.  Murphy was awarded the Byron Nelson Award last May.  Importantly Murphy also secured a start in the PGA Tour Byron Nelson Classic which is scheduled for Texas next May.  After a short Christmas break in Kinsale, Murphy is now back in the US and preparing for the spring events which start in two weeks.

Although James Sugrue didn’t manage to win any events in 2020, he’ll look back on it with some fond memories.  While plans to turn professional were put on hold, it meant that he was able to play in two US Majors.  The invitations came courtesy of his 2019 Amateur Championship win, and while both events were delayed, he did get to play in the US Open in September and the Masters Tournament in November.  Getting to Augusta National is a bucket list event for many golfers, playing the Masters is at another level entirely.  And Sugrue made the most of it.  Although he missed the cut, he shot a one under par round of 71 in his second round.  He became the first amateur from Ireland and Great Britain to shoot under par.  In addition to the majors, Sugrue also got to play in two other European Tour events.  Early in the season he played in the Oman Open, and in September he played in the Irish Open at Galgorm in Ballymena.  Although he was only returning from the US Open in New York, Sugrue played very well at the Irish Open and made the cut for the first time in a professional event.  With three major and two European Tour events behind him, those experiences, he’ll be looking forward to finally turning professional this year and getting out on tour in pro events.