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Amateur James Sugrue leads Irish hopes in Ballymena

Amateur James Sugrue leads Irish hopes in Ballymena

Irish amateur James Sugrue led home hopes as he produced a stunning first round of 67 at the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

James Sugrue

Sugrue sits two shots adrift of co-leaders Jordan Smith, Aaron Rai and Dean Burmester at three under par to cast the spotlight on the 24-year-old.

He outshone the 148th Open Championship winner Shane Lowry and European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington, who carded five over and one over par respectively, on a testing day at Galgorm Spa & Resort.

Sugrue, ranked eighth in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, made his first U.S. Open appearance at Winged Foot last week courtesy of his Amateur Championship victory at Portmarnock in 2019.

He was not initially in the field for the event in County Antrim when he flew home on Friday evening after missing the cut in New York, but a late invite sees the Irishman in a tie for fifth.

Sugrue spoke about his experience at Winged Foot, Lowry's Irish Open win as amateur in 2009 and his plans going forward for the rest of the year.

"I was in the U.S. Open last week and going from there to here is a little bit easier to say the least," Sugrue said.

"It was very tough, very penal. You can hit good shots off the tee and end up in the rough where you can only take a wedge out of it.

"But it was brilliant, I was delighted to be there I probably almost felt last week like I was another number, but I said this week I need to forget that attitude and come out and play golf and enjoy it and get around in as few shots as possible.

"The European Tour put up a lovely video last night of Shane’s win. It was brilliant, I was just talking to my caddie about it when we were heading back in the car, it was some achievement to win the Irish Open as an amateur, it was some scenes on the final green.

"There’s a lot of golf to be played yet (to replicate Lowry's victory) but obviously I’m very happy with how I played today.

"Conditions were tricky although we didn’t get wet, it was gusty and when you’re caught in those holes where there’s trees all around you, you don’t know what way the wind is blowing. You just have to trust it.

"But I was happy with my round today. It’s hard to plan anything now at the moment but I hope to turn pro after the Masters."

Lowry, who is making his first appearance on home soil since lifting the Claret Jug last July, has set his target on playing this weekend.

"It's great to here and it's great to be back playing the Irish Open," Lowry said.

"I said it yesterday, I'll always come back, I'll always play and support the event. It's just disappointing shooting the score that I did.

"Everybody who knows me knows that I want to do well in this event. It's just very disappointing today.

"First and foremost my goal tomorrow will be to make the weekend. I have to go out there and fight tomorrow and try and make the cut."

Harrington is making his first appearance since March and, although he admitted in the build up to the event that he sustained a foot injury, the three time Major Champion is thrilled to be back in competitive action.

"I really enjoyed today, really enjoyed being out there and having a game," Harrington said.

"There was lots of good stuff and even the bad stuff, I just put down to rust, so I was more than happy with it."

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