Dominate Ireland before turning pro, McGinley forewarns Sugrue

Some friendly advice from Paul McGinley has set up South of Ireland champion James Sugrue for an all-out assault on Irish domination in 2018.

James Sugrue says Paul McGinley emphasised the importance of winning, be it 'against your mother or Tiger Woods'. Picture: Pat Cashman

Sugrue, 20, has crowned an excellent season that saw him triumph in the South this summer by being named for the first time on the Golfing Union of Ireland’s men’s panel for 2018.

It was a further reward for the Mallow amateur after his success at Lahinch earned him a seat next to former Ryder Cup captain and fellow South winner McGinley at the table for the famous Clare links’ 125th Anniversary Champions dinner.

“That was a brilliant feeling,” said Sugrue. “I was sitting next to Paul McGinley, chatting away and it really was special, probably the best dinner I was ever at. Paul made a speech at the end and he speaks very well, it was just a really great night.

“The main thing he told me was that you need to beat everyone in Ireland, before you have ambitions of turning pro and he also talked about getting into a winning habit.

“He said, whether it’s a scratch cup or a US Amateur, the win is very important. It’s just really important to win a competition and get that ‘W’, whether you’re playing against your mother or Tiger Woods. If you get beating people into your system, it goes an awful long way. He talks a lot of sense and I thought he was very good.”

Sugrue is planning to put McGinley’s advice into practice, as he begins to incorporate the GUI schedule for its international panel alongside the Irish team-mates he will need to dominate. Getting the call-up was the fulfilment of a season-long goal, and winning the South was clearly a major contributory factor in his selection.

He triumphed in the toughest of conditions and his confidence was further boosted by the quality of player he had to beat in order to follow John McHenry and Mallow clubmate Mervyn Owens as the only Corkmen to have won the prestigious title in the last 50 years.

He dispatched Cork’s Gary O’Flaherty and Kinsale’s John Murphy in the early matchplay rounds, then beat Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O’Keeffe, from Douglas, in the semi-finals before defeating Conor O’Rourke of Naas in the decider.

“To be from Munster, the South was always my goal to win. That’s all you hear, that fella won the South and stuff like that, so it was definitely the one that I wanted to win out of the four.

“To beat those fellas from Munster along the way, I’d know all three fairly well and they didn’t take it badly. They were all good matches and there was no bad blood there.”

Now, Sugrue will be joining O’Keeffe and fellow newcomer Murphy on the GUI senior panel for next year and is already revelling in the access it will offer him to the top-class facilities and national head coach Neil Manchip.

“There’s a phenomenal support system in place when you get on the panel. Next month, we’re going to Spain for some warm-weather practice and even that alone, practising with a great coach like Neil Manchip with excellent facilities at your fingertips. If you’re on a panel, it can only make you better. I’m not going to go backwards, anyway.”

Sugrue will continue to balance his GUI commitments with his day job, thanks to understanding employers, his aunt and uncle at Sugrue Furniture.

“I’m working in the family furniture business in Mallow with my uncle and aunt and getting time off is okay if I give plenty of notice. They know the summer is the busy time for golf and so I work pretty hard during the winter months. We make it work.”

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