The 2019 Amateur Champion James Sugrue is only too happy to delay plans to turn pro after his one-hole win over Euan Walker at Portmarnock.
In a week of improbable scenarios that began with barely making it through to the matchplay stages, Sugrue , ranked 231 in the world, became just the eighth Irish winner in the 134-year history of the Amateur Championship.
The 22-year-old from Mallow set out an aggressive plan for the final at Portmarnock by taking driver off the tee on the first three holes and winning all of them. He then extended that lead to five holes after nine and it would prove to be a cushion he would need on a day of remarkable swings in fortune for both players over all 36 holes.
There were numerous potential turning points, especially towards the end of the first round as Sugrue held a four-hole lead playing the 18th. With Walker failing to make the green surface in three shots and Sugrue just over the back in two, it looked like a five-up lead at lunchtime was likely but somehow, he contrived to take four to get down while Walker holed from seven feet for an unlikely winning bogey.
The Mallow golfer still held a three-hole lead as they entered the second 18 and it improved to four when he won the 20th with a 12 foot putt for birdie but Walker was nothing if not resilient in the face of severe adversity.
The comeback by the Kilmarnock Barassie golfer was brave and patient. He holed from 40 feet on the 22nd hole and 20 feet on the 25th and then just 6 feet on the 26th to reduce the deficit to just one hole.
Even though Sugrue went back two ahead with a 12-foot putt on the 28th, there was a sense of inevitability that Walker would eventually draw level, such was the pressure he was applying and so it would transpire with a two-putt birdie on the par five 31stth and then a bogey for Sugrue on the par three 33rd.
That meant the match went to all square for the first time since the players had teed off in early morning.
After both men birdied the par five 34th, the hole which determined the result was the par four which followed, one of the longest and toughest on the course. Walker wafted his tee shot way right and could only play his approach shot 30 yards short of the green in two and he failed to make par while Sugrue found the green surface in two and then took two more for a win.
Taking a one-hole lead down the last, Sugrue’s tee shot was 12 inches from finding a deep fairway bunker while Walker was in trouble again in rough right off the tee . Not finding the bunker was a huge break for the Corkman who knew he could play the hole for bogey in the likelihood of it being enough to close out victory and that proved to be the case.
Sugrue’s triumph carried with it not just the privilege of holding aloft of the famous old trophy but also automatic qualification for the Open in Royal Portrush next month, next April’s Masters in Augusta and next summer’s US Open at Winged Foot, New York.
"It's unbelievable. It is hard to put into words," he told RTÉ Sport. "It was a really long day today. I thought I was in trouble. Going into the afternoon session I was three up and i was level playing 16. I thought I was in a bit of bother."
After battling through six matches to reach the decider, Sugrue feared he was going to be pipped at the post.
"I had a lead and now it was gone. I was thinking if I was in Euan's boots I would have been wanting to put my foot on his neck.
"Thankfully going down 17 par won the hole. Then par on the last. The finish at Portmarnock is not an easy one. I won a lot of matches up the stretch, it really is a tough finish around here."
The first Irish winner since Alan Dunbar in 2012, Sugrue can now look ahead to a wonderful 12 months.
"It has been a fairytale week. It still is very hard to believe what has happened. I am looking at the trophy and it is starting to sink in," he said.
"I was thinking of turning pro at the end of the year but that won't be happening now. And I have no problem with that either. I can't wait to play those majors. A lot of professional golfers go their whole career without getting the chance to play them."