AT the ungodly hour of 6.35am on Thursday, James Sugrue set foot into the world of major golf beside Darren Clarke and PGA star Charlie Hoffman in the 148thedition of The Open.
The Mallow golfer won his right to a starting berth after winning the Amateur Open last month however this story goes back a lot further than one successful week in Portmarnock as the 22 years has earned his right to a starting spot thanks to over a decade of hard work and no end of power and natural talent.
Sugrue is obviously going to be a bag of nerves as he and his Mallow caddy, Conor Dowling, stand with the biggest names in the sport and while the Mallow Golf Club member may not have the same level of expectations surrounding his chances as some of the others he isn’t ruling anything out saying that his first target is to make the cut.
After that, Sugrue "wouldn’t mind a top 20 or 30 finish" but he is ruling nothing out.
Back at his club the expectation is reaching fever pitch as family, friends and fellow club members settle in for what they hope will be four magical days of action for the very popular and hugely talented 22-year-old.
Mallow Lady Captain Susan Coakley spoke about what this all means to the club.
“You can’t really put what has happened into words as this is really a once in a lifetime thing. Most clubs in the country would never get to experience something like this. A local, 22-year-old putting you onto the map like this is amazing. The young boys in the club are all going to want to emulate James now and we are just so proud of him.”
Gents Captain John M O’Keeffe is another that couldn’t hide his joy at Sugrue’s success.
“Everyone in this club are just so delighted for him. He is such a nice young lad and hopefully, it will mean only good things for James and good things for the club. You just couldn’t be happier right now. It is historic for this club.”
While Sugrue is clearly new to this level of competition he should take comfort from the fact that he does have more than one familiar face on the tee box with him as the Amateur Champion has history with Clarke.
One of the highlights of James’s early career was being invited to be part of the Darren Clarke Golf School at Portmarnock Golf Club in 2012 when still just a teenager - playing off scratch by the way. There, he had the pleasure of teeing off with the former Open winner impressing all at the event including Mr Clarke himself.
Now Sugrue gets the chance to show the Ulster man just how far he has come.