A night in the famous Crow’s Nest at Augusta National will have to wait until November for James Sugrue but when the opportunity arrives for the Irish amateur, his coach believes he will be good and ready for his moment among the pines and azaleas.
This was the week Mallow golfer Sugrue was set to further cash in on the rewards of becoming the Amateur Champion in 2019, by taking his place among the sport’s elite in the opening major of the year, the Masters.
All the trappings of a trip to one of the most hallowed golf courses in the world still await with Augusta National Golf Club announcing on Monday that their tournament will now be the final major of the year, to be played November 9-15. The trip should also still include a date at the Golf Club of Georgia for The Georgia Cup Match, an annual head to head between the US and R&A Amateur champions. That is set to be moved to the weekend before the rearranged Masters this autumn and will see Sugrue meet Andy Ogletree before the pair travel 150 miles east from the Atlanta hinterland to Augusta and the greatest show in golf.
While Ogletree, a Georgia Tech student, booked his spot in golf’s most exclusive invitational by winning the 2019 US Amateur at Pinehurst, Sugrue, 23, earned his ticket with a dramatic victory at Portmarnock last June. It also gave the Corkman starts at last July’s Open Championship at Portrush and the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot, rescheduled on Monday for September 17-20 but the Masters was the grand prize, and it includes the opportunity reserved for amateur invitees to stay in the garrett atop the iconic Augusta National clubhouse.
Just one night in the Crow’s Nest will do for Sugrue, whose plan is to enjoy the Augusta experience in the company of parents Margaret and Mick and a host of other family members and friends.
“One night. That would be good, but I want to stay with my friends and family, like I usually do,” Sugrue told the Irish Examiner before Covid-19 disrupted everybody’s lives.
“There’s a dinner I’ve been invited to at Augusta National and I’ll stay there that night, just so I can see for myself what it’s like.
“Otherwise. We’ve booked a nice house, we’re a five-minute drive from the course and it looks ideal.”
Among those sharing that house will be Michael Collins, the former touring professional who has been coaching Sugrue since he was a boy visiting the PGA Pro at Mallow Golf Range “We’re working with videos back and forth at the moment with the driving range closed,” Collins said.
“James is able to do a small bit at home to keep himself ticking over, putting and chipping, and a bit of space for some longer clubs but it’s good to have a new date to aim for with the Masters now on in November and hopefully the US Open before that.
“You don’t know what tournaments are going to get played at the moment but in fairness to James he’s not worried by any of that, he’s just tipping away, he’ll stick to what he does and keep working and if he needs to be somewhere, whenever that is, he’ll be there and ready to play.
“He played a couple of practice rounds with Shane Lowry in Portrush last year and Shane was great with him, Graeme McDowell as well, very relaxed for the few holes they played and that definitely helped take away some of the nerves. So hopefully he can find someone interesting to have a practice round with in Augusta, calm everything down early by hitting some shots in front of them, relieve some of the pressure ahead of the tournament.”
“It’s exciting, I’m excited but I need to get him to perform and it’s my job to make sure we’ve enough work done and he’s able to do what we know he can do. So there’s a level of excitement and a level of nervousness. It will be grand to be there but you want to perform.
“He won’t want to go there, have a look round and go home on Saturday morning. He’ll be going to be as competitive as he can possibly be. So it’s just about doing himself justice and if he can do that, that’s fair enough. That’s the main thing for me, that he can stand up and show us what he can do.”