Walker Cup hopefuls handed South of Ireland byes
James Sugrue (Mallow). Picture: Pat Cashman

James Sugrue (Mallow). Picture: Pat Cashman

Amateur champion James Sugrue is one of four Irish Walker Cup hopefuls bidding for glory in the Pierse Motors sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Championship at Lahinch

The R&A reduced the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup squad to 16 yesterday and while Kinsale's John Murphy didn't make the cut, he's been handed a bye into Friday's matchplay stages alongside Sugrue, Kilkenny's Mark Power, Portmarnock's Conor Purcell and defending South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty from Dundalk.

The Walker Cup aspirants are competing in a panel session at Royal Liverpool this week but they will be at Lahinch on Friday to join the leading 59 players from 36-hole strokeplay qualifying in the matchplay draw.

The South is the third last event in the Bridgestone Order of Merit race for three spots in the Irish team for the Home Internationals at the Co Clare links from September 9-11.

Sugrue's presence at the South evokes glory days at Lahinch when amateur legends such as JB Carr and Garth McGimpsey topped the bill. Those giants of the past did not achieve a South-Amateur double in the same season so Sugrue has a unique opportunity in 2019. 

Notably, the last three winners of the South will contest this year's championship with Purcell, who made his major breakthrough at Lahinch in 2016, joined by Sugrue and Rafferty.

 Although the title has eluded him, Hermitage star Rowan Lester looks at home whenever he plays Lahinch.

The leading qualifier in 2017, Lester has twice reached the final. He lost out to Purcell in 2016. Last year he went down in the decider, against Rafferty, at the second extra hole.

As for the reduction of the Walker Cup squad from 26 to 16, GB&I captain Craig Watson has called up English trio Matty Lamb, David Langley and Joshua McMahon.

The final 10 man team for the clash with the Americans at Hoylake from September 7-8 will be announced next month.

GB&I squad are: J Burnage (Saunton), T Plumb (Yeovil); A Fitzpatrick (Hallamshire), Mark Power (Kilkenny), B Gill (Lindrick), C Purcell (Portmarnock), H Hall (West Cornwall), C Rafferty (Dundalk), B Jones (Northamptonshire County), S Scott (Nairn), M Lamb (Hexham), T Sloman (Taunton & Pickeridge), D Langley (Castle Royle), J Sugrue (Mallow), J McMahon (Wallasey), E Walker (Kilmarnock, Barassie).

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