South of Ireland: Sugrue a man on a mission
Mallow's James Sugrue. Picture ©  Brian Arthur

Mallow's James Sugrue. Picture © Brian Arthur

Lahinch is no stranger to great feats of derring-do so it's entirely realistic to believe that Mallow's James Sugrue can become the first player for 55 years to retain the South of Ireland Championship this week.

The 21-year-old defending champion tees it up in the first strokeplay qualifying round today hoping to follow in the footsteps of Killarney's Michael Guerin, who famously completed a hat-trick of victories with a 2&1 win over David Sheahan in 1963. 

Amateur golf has changed utterly since those days, and while many will argue about the strength in depth of one era versus another, the holder knows that given the vagaries of matchplay golf, he will have to produce his very best golf to top an elite field two years running.

He believes he's a much-improved player thanks to hard work with coach Michael Collins and he showed as much last month when he carded an immaculate, eight-under par 64 to win Regional Qualifying for the British Open at County Louth.

He couldn't quite reproduce that kind of form in Final Qualifying but having watched the action unfold on the sun-scorched fairways of Carnoustie over the weekend, he saw enough of Tiger Woods' tactical approach to know what he has to do at Lahinch.

Mallow's James Sugrue. Picture ©  Brian Arthur

Mallow's James Sugrue. Picture © Brian Arthur

"All the players that finished well were the ones that were hitting it straight and hitting a lot of long irons," Sugrue said of last week's Major test. "I think if you take a similar game plan to Tiger Woods, you won't be far away at Lahinch.

"I'm looking forward to it. It should be a good week. It was raining and quite windy last year. I'm told the course is fairly brown at this stage so the conditions will be completely different to last year."

Sugrue plans to wear out his two-iron as often as possible in the 117th edition of Pierse Motors Volkswagen sponsored classic.

And if he wins, he can take a giant step towards winning a place in the Irish team for the Home Internationals at  Royal Dornoch next month as "the South" is the penultimate event in the Bridgestone Order of Merit series which will see the top two points winners after next month's AIG Irish Close earn a coveted spot on the Ireland team.

Sugrue is sixth in the list but knows that a win could potentially see him leapfrog leader Robin Dawson, who is on duty from Great Britain and Ireland with Portmarnock's Conor Purcell and Kinsale's John Murphy in the St Andrews Trophy match against the Continent of Europe in Finland.

"Hopefully I can make the Home Internationals," Sugrue said. "That's the plan."

Competition will be red hot on the Clare coast with Castle's Alex Gleeson, West of Ireland champion Robert Brazill from Naas, Kilkenny's Mark Power and Waterford's Eanna Griffin all ranked ahead of the Mallow man in the points race and gunning for the coveted title.

Despite the absence of Great Britain and Ireland players Dawson, Purcell and Murphy, there is a strong field in action with Galway’s Ronan Mullarney, 2016 runner-up Rowan Lester from Hermitage, Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty also vying to make the 64 qualifiers for the matchplay stages on Friday.

Alex Fitzpatrick, brother of Ryder Cup player Matt, was due to tee it up but he has opted to take up an invitation to compete in the European Tour's Porsche European Open in Germany instead.

South of Ireland Amateur Open, Lahinch

Sponsored by Pierse Motors Volkswagen


Live scoring

  1. 07:00/11:20 Nathan McCann (Lurgan), Greg O’Mahony (Fota Island), Ryan O’Doherty (Enniscrone);  
  2. 07:10/11:30 Aaron Ryan (Thurles), Paul O’Hara (Kilkenny), Michal J Kennelly (Galway Bay);  
  3. 07:20/11:40 Ross McKeever (Castle), Ruairi O’Connor (Co Sligo), Eric Rumley (Kinsale);  
  4. 07:30/11:50 Mikey Burke (Galway), Jason Rackard (Enniscorthy), Kieran McCarthy (Kinsale);  
  5. 07:40/12:00 Cathal Butler (Kinsale), John Bolger (Courtown), Tony Cleary (Woodstock);  
  6. 07:50/12:10 Anthony McDaid (Palmerstown Hse), Jason O’Leary (Dromoland Castle), Martin O’Neill (Coollattin);  
  7. 08:00/12:30 Cian Geraghty (Laytown/B’stown), Thomas Neenan (Lahinch), Max Kalfjaal (Wasby, Swe); 
  8. 08:10/12:40 Justin Kehoe (Limerick), Keith Daniels (Loughrea), Adam Doran (Co Louth);  
  9. 08:20/12:50 Ryan Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire), Jack Blake (The Island), Daryl Callister (Eng);  
  10. 08:30/13:00 Michael O’Kelly (Limerick), Keegan Shreves (USA), Stephen Barker (Mourne);  
  11. 08:50/13:10 Owen O’Brien (Limerick), Gareth A Carr (Mullingar), David Brady (Co Sligo); 
  12. 09:00/13:20 Eugene Smith (Laytown/B’stown), Harry Gillivan (Westport), Ross Dutton (Tandragee);  
  13. 09:10/13:30 John Hickey (Cork), Marc Norton (Belvoir Park), Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire);  
  14. 09:20/13:40 Ian O’Rourke (Royal Dublin), TJ Ford (Co Sligo), James Fox (Portmarnock);  
  15. 09:30/13:50 Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), Mathew McClean (Malone), Pat Murray (Clontarf); 
  16. 09:40/14:00 Peter McKeever (Castle), Niall Carroll (Galway Bay), Gary O’Flaherty (Cork);  
  17. 09:50/14:20 Marc McCormack (USA), Devin Morley (Oughterard), Thomas O’Connor (Athlone);  
  18. 10:00/14:30 Oisin Devereaux (Carton House), James Sugrue (Mallow), Gerard Dunne (Co Louth);  
  19. 10:10/14:40 Gary Ward (Kinsale), Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock), Robert Brazill (Naas); 
  20. 10:20/14:50 Jack Ryan (Castletroy), Paul Murphy (Rosslare), Robbie Pierse (Grange);  
  21. 10:40/15:00 Ross Latimer (Knock), Andrew McCormack (Castletroy), Marcus Looby (Greystones);  
  22. 10:50/15:10 Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu), Ross Kenny (Arklow);  
  23. 11:00/15:20 Rory Williamson (Holywood), Jack Walsh (Castle), Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire);  
  24. 11:10/15:30 Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little), Daniel Murphy (Portarlington), Hugh O’Hare (Fortwilliam);  
  25. 11:20/15:40 Dean McMahon (Castletroy), David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown),  Joe Lyons (Forrest Little);   
  26. 11:30/15:50 Marc Boucher (Carton House), Sean Desmond (Monkstown), Paraic Connolly (Killeen Castle);  
  27. 11:40/07:00 Stephen Watts (Cairndhu), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Mickey McHugh (UAE); 
  28. 11:50/07:10 Nikolai Schaffrath (Germany), Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick), Jack Doherty (Carton House);  
  29. 12:00/07:20 Robert Moran (Castle), Keith Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), Jack Madden (Royal Portrush); 
  30. 12:10/07:30 Bob Loftus (Lahinch), Tyrone Clarke (Royal Portrush), Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock);  
  31. 12:30/07:40 Rhys Clarke (Wexford), Colin Cunningham (Carton House), Niall Hearns (Mountrath); 
  32. 12:40/07:50 Shane Hogan (Nenagh), Michael Horan (Birr), Harry Duggan (Kilkenny); 
  33. 12:50/08:00 Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush); 
  34. 13:00/08:10 Paul Coughlan (Castleknock), Paul Carey (Nenagh), Barry Anderson (Royal Dublin); 
  35. 13:10/08:20 Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), Eoghan Long (Monkstown), Graham Nugent (Kilkenny);  
  36. 13:20/08:30 Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Gregory Royston (South Africa), Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint); 
  37. 13:30/08:50 Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene),  Gary Collins (Rosslare);   
  38. 13:40/09:00 Jonathan Yates (Naas), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Mark Power (Kilkenny); 
  39. 13:50/09:10 Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Dylan Brophy (Castleknock), Keith Egan (Carton House); 
  40. 14:00/09:20 Alex Gleeson (Castle), James Temple (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); 
  41. 14:20/09:30 Edward Stack (Ballybunion), Jack Hearn (Tramore), Mark McKenna (Dun Laoghaire);  
  42. 14:30/09:40 John Greene (Portmarnock), Paul Flynn (Tramore), Evan Farrell (Ardee);  
  43. 14:40/09:50 Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), Brian Gilligan (Woodstock), Darragh Crawford (Bundoran);  
  44. 14:50/10:00 Damien McCusker (Moyola Park), Gary McGrane (The Royal Dublin), Ian Bohane (Lee Valley);  
  45. 15:00/10:10 Stefan Greenberg (Tandragee), James Maginn (Mourne), Ross McCormack (Palmerstown House); 
  46. 15:10/10:20 Sean Poucher (Limerick), Brian Shally (Dromoland Castle), Cillian Twomey (Fermoy); 
  47. 15:20/10:40 Ciaran Vaughan (Limerick), Padraig O’Connor (Macroom), Shaun Carter (Royal Dublin); 
  48. 15:30/10:50 Liam Power (Galway), Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin), Michael Reddan (Limerick);  
  49. 15:40/11:00 Patrick Brennan (Belvoir Park), Marc Nolan (Dun Laoghaire), Cian Feeney (Co Sligo);  
  50. 15:50/11:10 Michael Buggy (Castlecomer), Fergal O’Sullivan (Tralee), Peter Sheehan (Ballybunion).