The Open - 'Don't hit it out of bounds!'

As the clock ticked towards 6.35am, Darren Clarke was announced to the first tee at Royal Portrush on the opening day of The 148th Open while James Sugrue waited in the wings.

  • 18 July 2019

PHOTO: James Sugrue tees off at The Open. Photo by Golffile.

The popular local getting the warmest of causeway coast welcomes.


As the noise subsided, James Sugrue, having had to wait in the tunnel for a few moments for Clarke's welcome to diminish, appeared from beneath the stand that surrounds the first tee.

Not showing any signs of nerves, the 22 year old Ireland international from Mallow in County Cork looks like coolness personified.

Banana in hand, and looking ever alert for the call to action, Sugrue goes through the formalities with his playing partners and starter.


But was what going through his mind as he waited to tee off?

"Don't hit it out of bounds" he beams afterwards, now able to reflect on his first experience of an event on this scale.

"I was on the range this morning and my thought was that, and thankfully I hit a good drive."

"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. 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 settled me in a little bit. And just enjoyed it really from there on in."

Sugrue, who famously missed his first round tee time in the North of Ireland here at Portrush just two years ago – resulting in disqualification – made sure there was no repeat of that this time with a 4am alarm call.

Admittedly nervous as he placed the ball on the tee, Sugrue creamed his tee shot down the fairway and his Open adventure was underway.


Hole 1 | 421 yards | Par 4 | Hughies

Sugrue finds the middle of the fairway and hits his second to the upper level of this elevated two-tier green. Two putts for par.


Hole 2 | 574 yards | Par 5 | Giant's Grave

A solid drive finds the fairway and allows Sugrue go for the green in two. Finds the putting surface but has a tricky uphill putt for eagle. Lags it to around 2ft and holes the next to take a share of the lead.


Hole 3 | 177 yards | Par 3 | Islay

Tee shot finds the back right of this tricky green, holding the green and leaving a 25ft putt for birdie. Leaves the birdie effort just short. Par made.


Hole 4 | 482 yards | Par 4 | Fred Daly's

Another fine tee shot splitting the fairway and a solid second to 20ft. The first putt grazes the edge of the hole and it's a tap in par for the Corkman.


Hole 5 | 374 yards | Par 4 | White Rocks

The first wayward shot of the day sees Sugrue in the rough short right of the green. He hasn't much green to work with and plays a lovely chip shot which uses the bank behind the pin to stop the ball and it rolls down to 30ft. Birdie putt is close and it's tapped in for par.


Hole 6 | 194 yards | Par 3 | Harry Colt's

James looks disappointed with the tee shot but it comes back off the mound left of the green and stops 40ft from the hole. Steps up, rolls the putt in and is back on top of the leader board on -2.


Hole 7 | 592 yards | Par 5 | Curran Point

Finds the middle of the fairway on this long par five playing into the wind. Lays up to around 120 yards, left centre of fairway. Puts too much on his third and leaves himself with a difficult shot from the back right edge, just off the green. Decides to play a wedge instead of putting through the valley, the delicate shot wanders down the green to the top of the ledge and gravity takes it down to the hole. A stunning shot, tap in for par and he is still tied for the lead.


Hole 8 | 434 yards | Par 4 | Dunluce

Centre of the fairway from the tee and his second finds his first bunker of the day, short right of the green. He has a good stance in the centre of the bunker and plays a lovely shot to around 6ft past the hole. It lips the right edge and he taps in for bogey. Back to -1.


Hole 9 | 432 yards | Par 4 | Tavern

Regarded as the hardest hole on the course, Sugrue finds the rough on the right side of the fairway. He has a challenging stance on the side of a dune but plays a lovely shot to pin-high just off the left side of the green. Plays a lovely chip to 4ft and holes the putt for par.


Hole 10 | 447 yards | Par 4 | Himalayas

Another drive, down the middle. Lovely second to 15ft past the pin but the spin brings it close. Holes the 6ft putt for birdie. Back into a share of the lead on -2.


Hole 11 | 474 yards | Par 4 | PG Stevenson's

Two-time Champion golfer Padraig Harrington once described this tee-shot as the most difficult in golf. Sugrue finds the fairway once more. His second shot is poor though, short and right of the green behind a large dune. He can't see much of the green and plays a high wedge shot to around 35ft past the hole. He misses the next and taps in for bogey. Back to -1.


Hole 12 | 532 yards | Par 5 | Dhu Varren

Fairway found with the tee shot, he takes a 3 wood out to take on the green. A stunning shot from 270 yards ends up 20ft past the pin. Steps up for an eagle putt to give him the outright lead on his own. Agonisingly it hangs on the left edge, refusing to fall. Birdie and tied for the lead once more on -2.


Hole 13 | 194 yards | Par 3 | Feather Bed

Tee shot finds the front right bunker, and Sugrue as plenty of green to work with towards the back left pin. He plays a low bunker shot to around 3ft and holes the putt for par.


Hole 14 | 473 yards | Par 4 | Causeway

Finds the fairway off the tee and puts his second shot just off the green, back right. Everything rolls towards the front from here, and Sugrue misses past the pin which leaves him an uphill 6ft putt for par. Just before he holes out, Grillo makes an ace on the nearby 13th to rapturous applause.


Hole 15 | 426 yards | Par 4 | Skerries

A monster drive down the left catches the contoured fairway and bounds across the fairway to leave no more than a short wedge into the green. Chips past the hole, no spin this time and has 30ft left for birdie. Rolls the putt down and taps in for par.


Hole 16 | 236 yards | Par 3 | Calamity Corner

Misses the green pin-high on the left and gets a good lie. A lofty wedge leaves him 20ft for par, which is missed. Bogey.


Hole 17 | 408 yards | Par 4 | Purgatory

Centre of the fairway off the tee, he finds the greenside bunker pin-high on the right. Plays a nice bunker shot which has a chance as it passes the hole. 5ft for par, missed and holes for bogey.


Hole 18 | 474 yards | Par 4 | Babington's

Middle of the fairway and plays his second to pin-high just off the right edge. 25ft for birdie. Just past the hole and taps in for par to the cheers of 5,000 people in the surrounding grandstand.

Level Par.​

James Sugrue's Open adventure is supported by Sport Ireland through the GUI's High Performance Programme.