James Sugrue will face Euan Walker in The 124th Amateur Championship final
Last Updated: 21/06/19 11:20pm
James Sugrue will bid for a home victory when he faces Scotland's Euan Walker in tomorrow's final of The 124th Amateur Championship at Portmarnock.
Sugrue, 22, delighted the large Irish crowds watching the semi-final over the renowned links near Dublin by knocking out the top-ranked player in the field, David Micheluzzi from Australia, to seal his place in the 36-hole showdown.
Walker was equally impressive in the last four, defeating Englishman Benjamin Jones, as the finalists set up the biggest day of their amateur careers.
The winner secures exemptions into The 148th Open at Royal Portrush next month, the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National next April.
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Sugrue is bidding to become the first Irish winner since Alan Dunbar in 2012, while Walker is seeking to emulate the last Scottish victor, Bradley Neil, who won at Royal Portrush in 2014.
Mallow member Sugrue exchanged early holes with Micheluzzi, before he went back in front at the eighth and never let his lead slip. The Australian failed to get up and down for par at both the 10th and the 11th to hand the Irishman a three-hole lead.
Sugrue conceded the 13th after a poor tee shot but he kept his nerve to seal a 3&1 win after Micheluzzi twice found trouble.
"It's unbelievable. It hasn't sunk in yet," said Sugrue, whose march to the final was a surprise given his World Amateur Golf Ranking of 231. "To think if I win on Saturday that I'll be playing in major championships like The Open is incredible.
"It wasn't easy in front of the crowds as you do feel the expectation but I putted really well today. The crowds were unreal. I've only seen crowds like that at a gaelic football match! It was amazing. Hopefully it's the same again tomorrow and I come out on top."
Walker's birdie at the par-five 6th gave him an early advantage in his semi-final with Jones, but a run of three bogeys in a row from the Kilmarnock (Barassie) player gave Jones the lead after 10 holes. However, Walker, ranked 71st in the world, saw his eagle putt conceded on the 13th and pushed on to win the 16th before sealing a 2&1 success.
"I've been working hard for so long, so to achieve this and to finally get to this stage in such a big event is absolutely amazing," said the 23-year-old. "I'm just going to have to try and handle the home crowds tomorrow. I've never been in this situation before when everyone is going to be rooting against me, although I'm not quite sure if that will be true.
"I'll just need to focus on my mental outlook and stay strong. It's amazing to have major championships on the line. A win in the final would top my career."
The 36-hole final takes place from 8.30am tomorrow. Entry is free of charge for all spectators at Portmarnock, while live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A's website and social media platforms.