Ireland’s ‘big four’ join fans in saluting new star

Ireland’s ‘big four’ join fans in saluting new star
James Sugrue with his mother Margaret. Picture: Pat Cashman

James Sugrue’s magnificent achievement in winning the 124th British Amateur Championship at Portmarnock has not gone unnoticed by a quartet of famous Irish professionals.

He received congratulations over the past 24 hours from Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Pádraig Harrington, and Rory McIlroy, all carrying a similar message: “See you in Portrush.”

A place in the Open Championship field next month is just one of several priceless “perks” accruing from 22-year-old Sugrue’s triumph which came absolutely out of the blue.

When he arrived at the home of relatives, Donal and Sheila Waters last weekend, he was “booked” into their North Dublin home for just two days. However, James’s two days were extended by another four as he reeled off a succession of mighty performances over the famous links until on Saturday evening he was left triumphantly holding the famous 124-year-old trophy - and celebrating with a cool pint of milk.

Among the close on 3,000 who watched Sugrue hold out for a nail-biting 36th green victory over the Scot Euan Walker were his parents, Michael and Margaret. While being understandably proud of her son’s achievements, mum admits to being “sick with nerves” as the match neared its climax, with Walker having drawn level with three holes to play having been five down at one stage of the 36-hole decider.

“People were asking me if I was enjoying it but I had to admit, no, that I was sick with worry,” admitted Margaret, a member of the Munster Golf GUI staff in their Mallow headquarters.

“I was very nervous and thought James must have been the same. But his caddie and longtime friend Conor Dowling assured me he was calm and composed and treating it as just another game of golf.

“It was such an achievement by James and we were all so proud of him ... myself, Mick and the family, Michelle and Edward. And to have so many Mallow people there cheering him on, like the captains John Martin O’Keeffe and Susan Coakley and Presidents Joe Foley and John Roche when we arrived back at the club around midnight.

We stayed on to meet people from Portmarnock Golf Club who honoured him with life membership, and from the R&A, who provided the information for a page profile in the British Open programme at Royal Portrush next month.

Quietly spoken, James had described himself as “a country boy” in an interview during the week and Margaret smilingly agreed.

“Of course he loves golf but he also enjoys walking and shooting with his two dogs, Sheeba, a German Shepherd, and Ruby, a basset hound,” she revealed.

“He also had a great time with Donal and Sheila Waters who have named his room The Winner’s Enclosure.”

James Sugrue has joined the great James Bruen as the second player to bring the coveted old trophy to Cork. He will reap the rewards of the victory for a long time to come and visit as a celebrity some of the game’s most illustrious venues. It couldn’t happen to a nicer young man.

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