Excitement reached fever pitch in Mallow last weekend as the club held a special event to honour The Amateur Champion, James Sugrue.
Sugrue received honorary life membership by his club, in recognition of his great win in Portmarnock in June and Mallow Golf Club had organised a special guest in the club, they worked with the R&A to bring over the Amateur Championship Trophy, giving everyone a chance to see the famous cup, it’s first time to reach the rebel county.
There were well over 300 members, friends and family in attendance, and for many it was their first chance to meet the Champion since his big win as Sugrue has been travelling since June with events in Sweden, America, several events in Ireland and of course the Open Championship in Portrush.
Last week Sugrue enjoyed a week off before playing in the Mallow President’s Prize on Saturday and the senior scratch cup on Sunday where he was just pipped to the Scratch Cup title while a huge crowd turned out to watch him play. There was a real community atmosphere in the golf club as in addition to the members and friends, GUI Officials from all over the province attended to join in the celebrations.
Mallow Chairman Lar Thompson called the gathering to order and Captain John Martin O’Keeffe thanked everyone for joining in the celebration. Munster Golf Chairman Jim Long spoke with a deep sense of pride for what Sugrue has achieved. Long was a Boys interprovincial manager and national junior convenor for several years, and many of those coincided with the time that Sugrue came through the provincial teams and coaching programmes.
“It’s a source of great pride for all of us involved in Munster Golfer to witness what James has achieved this year” said the Chairman. “We saw him win the South of Ireland a few years ago, we know him since he was a young golfer and I’ve had the privilege of working with him in junior golf. We’re delighted to see what he has achieved in golf and we’re also delighted to see him grow into a very good young man.
“When you see how patient, good humoured and good natured he is, he’s a credit to his family, to Mallow Golf Club, and to Munster Golf. I’m absolutely delighted to see him develop into the person he has now become and on behalf everyone in the Branch I’d like to wish him the very best of luck in the years ahead. I don’t think this is the last time we’ll be gathered to celebrate the achievements of James Sugrue.”
Lar Thompson went on to share part of a letter received by the club and James from the R&A after his win in Portmarnock.
“In a letter to James after his win, Martin Slumbers, the Chief Executive of the R&A commented that ‘the support you brought reminded me of so many days gone by in amateur golf. I’m advised that at the previous event in Scotland only 100 visitors watched the event. However in Portmarnock over 3,000 visitors including a huge number of supporters from Mallow watched the fabulous golf matches.’ Along with the letter, Slumbers included a large framed panoramic photograph capturing the huge crowds that attended the final. The text on the photo simply says James, thank you for the memories”.
With that the next task was to confer James with his honorary life membership after which he was asked to say a few words. And the man himself was true to form when he accepted the honour from the club, keeping the speech short he thanked everyone in Mallow for their support.
“I’d like to thank everyone for coming here tonight, and everyone for going to Portmarnock,” said the Champion Amateur. “It was unreal, it probably got me over the line and was greatly appreciated. I’d like to thank Mallow Golf Club for everything they have done for me, I’m very lucky to me a member here.”
And it wasn’t just James who received an honour on the night. Conor Dowling who caddied for James was given honorary membership for 2019/2020 and James’ parents Margaret and Michael were honoured with lifetime pavilion membership.
While everyone was excited to join in the celebrations on Sunday, many were busy making the social plans for the trip to Liverpool next week for the Walker Cup. With Sugrue’s inclusion virtually guaranteed since early July, Mallow Golf Club members and friends have been busy making travel plans, and huge number of supporters from North Cork are expected in Royal Liverpool for the event on the 7th & 8th September. While over 100 friends and family are looking forward to Liverpool, the same is true for the man himself.
“I’m just really looking forward to it to be honest. It’s the pinnacle for amateur golf and I’m delighted to be part of the GB&I team” said Sugrue. “I used to watch videos of Andy Sullivan playing Walker Cup when I was younger so I can’t wait to get started and hopefully beat the Americans.”
Sugrue follows in the footsteps of Jimmy Bruen, John McHenry and Eoghan O’Connell, the only other Corkmen to reach that level. The 22-year old will be joined by Caolan Rafferty from Dundalk and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell as the three Irish golfers on the ten man team.
Sugrue was named on the extended panel in April and he has benefited from a few visits to Hoylake for official squad practice.
“The course is in lovely condition and I can’t wait for the event” said Sugrue. “Obviously I think we have a little bit of an advantage on the Americans, we all play links course and we’ve all been here two or three times. We play links courses regularly and it’ll be a new experience for them. Hopefully the weather will blow a bit, some traditional English links weather would suit fine.”