The home presence in the first Open Championship to be played on Irish soil since 1951 grew further on June 22 when 22-year-old Sugrue, from Mallow in County Cork, became The Amateur Champion with a last-green victory over Scotland’s Euan Walker at Portmarnock
Only 231st on the world amateur rankings, the 2017 South of Ireland winner said of earning his exemption: “I can’t wait - it’s unreal. I love Royal Portrush - it’s probably one of my favourite links courses, second to Portmarnock!” After knocking out the top-ranked player in the field, Australia’s world No 7 David Micheluzzi, in the semi-finals he stood five up after nine holes of the two-round final.
Walker fought back to level with three to play, only to lose the 35th and shake hands on the next, making Sugrue the first Irish winner since Alan Dunbar in 2012. At the last 32 stage he had beaten Swede Christoffer Palsson from three down with four to go and admitted: “I thought I was going home.” As well as The Open he can put next year’s Masters and US Open in his diary – dreamland really after missing some events earlier this season with an inflamed rib cartilage.