James Sugrue wins at the 22nd to keep his South title hopes alive at Lahinch
Kilkenny’s Mark Power, Rowan Lester from Hermitage and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty all impress in the afternoon to get through
James Sugrue knows he may have to become the first man for 55 years to retain the South of Ireland Amateur Open if he wants to force his way into the Irish team for next month’s Home Internationals
Self-belief and persistence proved invaluable to defending champion James Sugrue as he battled back from the brink to win at the 22nd and keep his title hopes alive at the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch, Co Clare.
On a day when Castle’s Alex Gleeson and Naas’s Jonathan Yates bowed out of the Pierse Motors Volkswagen-sponsored championship, the 22-year-old Mallow star knows he may have to become the first man for 55 years to retain the title if he wants to force his way into the Irish team for next month’s Home Internationals.
After beating Royal Portrush’s Jack Madden 3&1 in round one, he had to come back from two down with three to play against Knock’s Ross Latimer in the afternoon to force extra holes, before eventually winning on the fourth tie hole.
He won the 16th in par and the 18th with a birdie to draw level, then dodged a bullet at the 19th, racing his third from the back of the green more than 20 feet past the hole before making the return.
After halving the 20th in birdie, he watched Latimer salvage a half from eight feet at the 21st, before chipping to three feet to set up a winning birdie four at the Klondyke during a heavy downpour.
“I didn’t think I’d get that far, to be honest,” said a relieved Sugrue. “When I was two down with three to play I thought I was in trouble because I was two or three under but he was holing putt after putt.
“I felt I was playing too solidly and would have been disappointed to lose. But I eventually hit a few good shots and closed it out.”
‘One shot at a time’
Set to face Forrest Little’s Jack McDonnell in the last 16 on Saturday, he added: “The furthest I went in any match last year was the 18th in the first round, so it’s a relief, absolutely. I’ll try now to make sure I just take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself, because if you start looking ahead that’s when you get in trouble.”
Sugrue is joined in the third round by Douglas’s Peter O’Keeffe, who fell to the Mallow player in last year’s semi-finals. The 36-year-old Corkman was two down after 12 holes to Dún Laoghaire’s Marc Nolan in the morning, but played the back nine in five-under par to win by two holes.
In the afternoon he was up against South Africa visitor Gregory Royston, but this time he controlled the ball beautifully all the way through to win. Three up after nine, he went five up after 11 holes, but after losing the 12th, 13th and 15th to birdies, the Blackpool-based strength and conditioning coach won the 16th to close out the match 3&2.
Kilkenny’s Mark Power, 2016 runner-up Rowan Lester from Hermitage and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty were all impressive in the afternoon as they cruised through.
Lester beat Birr’s Michael Horan 3&2 in the first round before playing the first five holes on the back nine in six-under-par to beat Laytown and Bettystown’s David Foy 6&4, with the highlight a three-wood to eight feet that set up an eagle two at the risk-reward 13th.
But there was no luck for an out-of-sorts Gleeson as he fell 4&3 to Carton House’s Keith Egan or fellow senior panellist Yates, who lost on the 18th after Dún Laoghaire’s Alan Fahy rallied with three closing birdies.