Ireland’s James Sugrue won the 124th Amateur Championship after beating Scotland’s Euan Walker in a thrilling final held at Portmarnock Links, near Dublin.
Buoyed by the support of the majority of the 3,000 spectators who came to watch the action, 22-year-old Sugrue, from Mallow in County Cork, was five up after nine holes, but was pulled back to all-square before clinching a one-hole win on the final green.
Played in glorious sunshine, Sugrue’s fast start and sharp short game skills proved key as the Mallow member became the first Irish player to win the famous title since Alan Dunbar in 2012.
By virtue of his triumph, Sugrue gained exemptions into next month’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and will be invited to play in the 2020 Masters Tournament.
Ranked 231st on the world amateur rankings, Sugrue was never behind against Walker, as he came out on top of the 288-player international field who assembled at Portmarnock for only the club’s second ever staging of the championship. Sugrue made a superb start in the sunshine against his fellow Walker Cup squad member. A birdie at the second was sandwiched between two bogeys from Walker, 23, as the Irishman won the first three holes.
After Walker three-putted the short seventh, Sugrue moved four ahead and arrowed his approach to a foot at the ninth to extend his lead to five after playing the front nine in three under par. The Scot’s birdie at the tenth saw him win his first hole of the day before the reigning African Amateur champion further reduced the deficit to three with another birdie at the par-five 13th.
The Kilmarnock Barassie player, ranked 71st in the world, remained three down after the morning session, but after Sugrue went four up at the 20th the Scot launched his fightback after winning the next two holes.
Sugrue claimed the 24th hole, but his advantage was cut to just one hole after Walker’s birdie at the 26th. The Irishman responded with a birdie at the 28th to go two ahead again, but the battling Scot refused to go away. He won the 31st with a birdie and then squared the contest at the 33rd after Sugrue’s bogey. However, willed on by the home fans, Sugrue won the 35th with a par after Walker found trouble off the tee and sealed victory at the last when his opponent again pushed his tee shot right and failed with two putts from the back of the green.
“It is hard to believe really. The crowds that were out there were incredible, and I’m just kind of happy I did it for them, as I didn’t want all those people who came out to support me to see me end up losing. It’s more relief than anything else really to get over the line, especially after being three up going into the afternoon session. I’m just delighted to do it.
“I was very worried when it went back to all square. Euan has got a beautiful swing and very rarely hits bad shots. I wasn’t expecting to be given holes. Sometimes you can keep plodding away against other players and they will slip up eventually, but Euan not so much. I had to create opportunities myself and thankfully it worked.
“I can’t wait to play in the Open. It’s unreal. I love Royal Portrush, it’s probably one of my favourite links courses. With the other major championship opportunities, it’s incredible to think about it, and I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead.”