IT’S a long way from Mallow to Augusta, but that’s the trip James Sugrue and his coach Michael Collins had to undertake last week on the way to the Masters Tournament.
Travel restrictions meant Collins was the only person to head off with Sugrue, and the PGA teaching professional was delighted to be alongside his pupil on the journey to golf’s most famous setting.
“Even though I was really looking forward to getting to Augusta, Covid-19 meant that it was hard to relax knowing that we had to negotiate three airports, two flights, and 12 hours in the air,” said Collins.
However, after arriving on Friday, both men got the all-clear from their Covid-19 tests and they could head for the course with the important trip down Magnolia Lane.
“It was pretty cool driving down Magnolia Lane on Saturday morning, something that I will never forget, or get tired of,” said Collins.
“James has a local caddy for the week so we met Jack and played the front nine on Saturday and the back nine on Sunday morning.
“As everybody has told me before we came over, you don’t realise how undulating it is until you see it. The hill on the 10th could nearly be a ski slope.
"They have told us that it will play a bit differently to April as they have had to overseed to get it playable in November.”
The weather is making a difference too as Michael continued.
“It is playing pretty soft, meaning a lot of long approach shots into slopey, fast greens. You will have to be very good tee to green this week to be in contention.
“The greens take a lot of reading as the grain isn’t obvious but definitely has an influence. We also have the added element of some weather heading through here due to the tropical storm coming up from Florida.
“There is the possibility of weather delays which adds yet another element to the November Masters.”
Despite the changes in plans and schedules since March, Sugrue has kept his focus on the golf, as his coach added: “To say his year has been disrupted is a gross understatement, but he has shown a great attitude and continued to work away, through all the uncertainty around competitions, lockdowns and so on, and kept a positive mentality which can’t have been easy.
“He has kept working hard at home since the Irish Open and has arrived here in good shape. Ultimately, he is playing nicely, he has a great temperament and attitude and has a spring in his step after the Cork hurling and especially the footballers' results over the weekend.”
The plan is to enjoy the challenge and play well.