James Sugrue from Mallow defied incredible pressure over the closing holes at The Island links yesterday to clinch his place in today’s matchplay stages of the 124th British Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.
The 2017 South of Ireland champion had left himself with a considerable amount of ground to make up, having shot a round of 77 in Monday’s first round at Portmarnock but yesterday’s more amenable conditions proved more to his liking and the 22-year-old is now through to the business end of one of amateur golf’s biggest championships.
Yesterday also proved a happier day for three other Irish players, Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), Eanna Griffin (Waterford), and Ronan Mullarney (Galway) who overcame shaky starts to qualify for the matchplay rounds.
Sugrue got the start he needed yesterday with a birdie at the opening hole. This was offset by a bogey at the seventh before birdies at the eighth and 10th and a run of pars left on the cut mark.
“I missed a 10-footer for birdie at the 17th and after hitting a good drive down the 18th asked a scorer about the likely cut mark and he told me it was four over at that point,” said Sugrue.
“I knocked a gap wedge to 10 foot and this time the putt went in. Making the knockout stages is all-important because anything can happen now. It’s fantastic to be in with a chance of winning a tournament that gives you automatic entry to the British and US Opens and an invite to the Masters at Augusta. But I know there’s an awful long way to go.”
Reigning South and West of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty from Dundalk, Waterford’s Eanna Griffin, and Ronan Mullarney from Galway also had good reason to be proud of themselves as they fought their way back into the championship against the odds. Rafferty recovered from a dodgy 74 at The Island on Monday to shoot an admirable four under par 68 at Portmarnock and finish in a share of 6th while Griffin also dived under regulation at The Island with a one under 70 for an aggregate of 143 and tie for 11th.
Mullarney also maintained his composure in commendable fashion for a 72 at The Island and was among a large number of players on the cut mark of four over.
However, it was a disappointing few days for other Irish players including Portmarnock duo Conor Purcell and Geoff Lenehan and Hermitage’s Rowan Lester, all of whom missed the cut. Joint leading qualifiers were Thomas Plumb from Yeovil, England, and John Axelsen, Denmark, on four under 143.