James Sugrue has been planning to turn professional for the best part of two years, since winning the 2019 Amateur Championship, however, the Mallow native is only now getting ready to embark on that journey into the paid ranks. 

The European number one amateur player's transition into the professional circuit has been considerably interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, however, there are three other very important reasons why Sugrue did not go pro following his 2019 victory in Portmarnock. 

"One of the best prizes in amateur golf" is how Sugrue describes the prestigious tournament victory in north Dublin, which saw him shoot up the amateur ranking from his position of 232nd in the world going into the event. 

And Sugrue is not talking about the obligatory silverware that he hoisted high following the win, but rather the invitation to three major tournaments that came as part of the honour of taking perhaps the most prestigious amateur prize in world golf. 

The amateur champion secures an exemption into the US Open and The Open Championship, as well as an invitation to play at the Masters in Augusta, and Sugrue managed to play at all three over the past 18 months. 

 And while the Corkonian failed to make the cut at the trio of majors, he did manage to post an under-par round at the Masters – a first for an Irish or UK amateur – and believes that the experience has proved invaluable as he prepares to enter the paid ranks. 

"I had always planned to turn pro once I won the amateur," said Sugrue, speaking on Saturday Sport on RTE Radio 1. 

"My amateur world ranking is the best it’s ever been and it’s trending in the right direction. To get to European number one is lovely to finish my amateur career. And it’s great when looking for management and sponsorship." 

"Drive for show, putt for dough" - Sugrue has been working on his touch on the green

Sugrue admits that the amateur victory has changed his life and while the Covid crisis has interrupted his progress as a professional, he knows that everyone is in the same boat and he is just looking forward to getting started. 

"Without a doubt, it has changed my life drastically. It’s been an unbelievable journey, but definitely hampered by Covid.

"To get to play in three majors, one of the greatest prizes for winning an amateur event. 

"Now it’s time to try to play professional golf every week." 

And Sugrue said that the main thing that he took from his brief foray onto the professional circuit to play at the majors was the importance of having a strong putting game. 

"I have spent a lot of time recently doing a lot of putting over the past three or four months. That’s what I took from my experience. Whoever putts the best generally wins every week. 

"And the guys I played with were really good putters, really clinical from eight feet and in." 

Laid-back by nature on the track, Sugrue will draw natural comparisons to fellow Irish golfer and 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry, however, the Mallow man felt a connection with Rory McIlroy’s mindset going out to play, having recently spoken to the four-time major winner. 

"All the work is done beforehand so I just go out and enjoy myself, and if I play bad, and that’s the worst thing that happens, then it’s not a bad thing, because life goes on. 

"We were on a call with Rory McIlroy recently and he said that he has the same approach to the game." 

Looking ahead, Sugrue is working with his new management company attempting to set up a schedule to take him through the summer and beyond, which will certainly be helped by arriving on the scene with such a high amateur pedigree behind him. 

"My manager is talking to tournament directors trying to put some sort of a schedule for me.

"If you play Walker Cup they usually give you seven starts on the European Tour but Covid has put the cat among the pigeons, but everyone else is in the same boat.

"I'm looking at March or April now and I can’t wait to get going."