THE dust was just about settling in Mallow on Sunday.
James Sugrue, the Amateur Champion, was home and although he was pretty tired from the eight days in Dublin you couldn’t mistake that great sense of pride.
James, his family and a large contingent of Mallow supporters travelled from Portmarnock back to Mallow Golf Club on Saturday evening, and there was a great celebration as family, friends and supporters celebrated on home ground.
Originally scheduled to leave for Austria on Sunday evening with the Iris amateur team, James was released from the team, allowing him to go home and celebrate his win. Shortly after 10pm the winner arrived home to an incredible welcome.
Naturally, James had plenty of people who he wanted to thank, and after mentioning his family the next person was his friend and caddy Conor Dowling.
“It was great to have Conor on the bag, he took the week off work to come up,” said Sugrue.
“He’s been caddying with me for around a year, I think the first time was Open Qualifying in Baltray last year [Sugrue shot a course record 64 that day].
“And he’s a decent player, we play together regularly along with Eoin Goggin. It’s handy because there’s Conor is a club shorter than me so we can work off that.
“I was great too that Eoin came up and he was there from Wednesday onwards.”
Dowling was laid back just like Sugrue, and no matter what they faced during the week they had the same approach of staying in the moment and hitting one shot at a time. Dowling’s next appointment with James will be in three weeks time at the Open in Portrush.
As well as his friends, Sugrue also was keen to thank Michael Collins and Neil Manchip.
Collins, who is based in Mallow Driving Range has coached for well over a decade and Manchip is the GUI Irish National Coach, and he’s also Shane Lowry’s coach.
“It was great to have Neil there with us all week. I’ve been working with Mick Collins since I started more or less, and I’ve worked with Neil since I was 15.”
The crowd watching the final was estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000, a record attendance at any recent Amateur Championship.
After over 1,000 came on Friday to the quarter-finals, Portmarnock rallied the troops and there were close to 100 marshals on duty for the final.
Although the large crowds didn’t phase Sugrue, he did appreciate the support from his own club, and the large number of members that came out from the host club.
“It was unreal, the support from the club was fantastic. It was great to see so many familiar faces all through the week. I have to say a special word of thanks to Niall Goulding and the people in Portmarnock.
“They ran one hell of a tournament, it was the best run tournament I’ve ever been involved in. They love their golf and they all came out to support the event.”
In a great gesture from the home club, Portmarnock conferred honorary membership on both finalists, a fitting tribute to Sugrue and Walker, and one befitting the tournament.
It wasn’t just Mallow members that supported Sugrue, there were golfers from all over Cork and Munster, with the numbers increasing as the morning went on. There were several internationals on the course too, supporting their teammate.
Because of a scheduling conflict, many Cork golfers couldn’t make it as they were playing in the Senior Cup. There was lots of talk on Friday night that the qualifier should be postponed.
Despite several opinions coming out on social media, there was no move from Munster Golf.
In the end, Mallow asked that they be allowed to concede their first-round match against Castlemartyr, Munster Golf agreed and that allowed the team and managers to travel to Dublin.
Mallow Captain, John Martin O’Keeffe was in Portmarnock from Friday and he was delighted to see the troops arrive on Saturday.
“I knew there was a crowd on the way from all the messages but it was only when I looked down a packed fairway and realised that I recognised most of the faces that I realised just how many travelled,” said the Captain.
“Obviously it was the greatest weekend in the club’s history but James is such an unassuming and loyal man that the fondness we have for him means that we are not thinking about ourselves and what it means for the Club at this time, only for him, his future and his place in history.
“James was originally supposed to be flying out with the Irish team after the tournament. When we realised he was coming home we sent one text and that filled the Clubhouse. We were there late into the night, the buzz of excitement went on and on.”
Sugrue’s parents Margaret and Mick have supported him through the past decade, and are regulars on the fairways at most events. His brother Edward, sister Michelle and girlfriend Christina are also regulars and all five were there on Saturday to share in the celebrations.
Margaret is well known in golfing circles, as well as supporting James, she also works with Munster Golf as the Junior Golf Administrator.
Although she’s been around major competitions, she too was surprised with the numbers from Mallow.
“I didn’t expect that there would be so many people from Mallow, it was amazing,” said a very proud Margaret.
“The effort from the club to get people up was fantastic. The Lady Captain Susan Coakley and the Captain John Martin O’Keeffe were both up early on Friday morning for the quarter-finals.
“I can’t believe the efforts that people made to get to Portmarnock, leaving Mallow at 5.30am to see him tee-off in the final, the crowd was just amazing. His Mallow teammates forfeited their Senior Cup match on Saturday so that they could get up and support him, it was all so special.”
And while she was delighted with the support, she was also thrilled with the result.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, we’re so happy for James with all the work that he has put into golf over the years, all of the time he spent practicing and working on improving his game.”