James Sugrue battles the nerves to finish on level par

James Sugrue
James Sugrue

Amateur Championship winner James Sugrue admitted it was the 'most nervous he had even been' on a golf course when he accompanied Darren Clarke on to the first tee at Royal Portrush this morning.

But Sugrue, who became the eighth Irish winner in the 134-year history of the famous amateur competition at Portmarnock in June, praised Clarke for his help throughout the opening round of the tournament.

"I was definitely the most nervous I've ever been on the golf course this morning when I looked up at the grandstand and it was just packed," he said.

"And Darren walked on in front of me and the roar was just unbelievable. I was very nervous for the first and the second. I birdied the second, it set me in a little bit. And just enjoyed it really from there on in.

"He was an absolute gent for the whole round. On nine I had a four-footer and he tapped his putter off my back and was like, Roll that one in. He was an absolute gent for the whole round."

Once he settled the 22-year-old County Cork native found his rhythm and was able to enjoy the occasion, finishing with Clarke on level par 71.

"I've never heard roars like that on a golf course before. From the first to the 18th it was just incredible," said Sugrue.

"It's definitely lived up to what I thought it was going to be, if not surpassed it. The crowds playing yesterday, but today blew it out of the water completely. Obviously Darren being from here, everyone loves him and all the fans are very respectful.

"From end to end it was just jammed. It was classic. So I've played in front of a few people before, but nothing like on this scale.

"I just didn't want to put myself out of the tournament on the first day, show like a big number or something. Obviously I bogeyed 16 and 17. They're playing tough, and I'm sure there will be a few bogeys there today. All in all I'm fairly happy with the score.

I can't wait for tomorrow, though. I can't wait to not set the alarm at 4 o'clock, as well.