James Sugrue at the US Masters 2020

James Sugrue with his coach Michael Collins.

James Sugrue from Mallow made history last week when he teed up at the 2020 US Masters last Thursday in Augusta, and while he didn’t make the cut and qualify to play over the weekend, he performed wonderfully well and his second round score of 71 was the the lowest and first under par round ever recorded by a Great Britain and Ireland amateur at the Masters. James’s journey over the two days was recorded in a diary by his coach Michael Collins, a PGA Professional and GUI Munster Provincial Coach. Below we reprint Michael’s Masters experience watching James from his arrival in Augusta, and his journey over two days playing against the world’s top players.

Finally, it has arrived. The complimentary mask which we received tells its own story and, while it will be different to other Masters tournaments, it’s still Augusta and it’s still a Major Championship! After all the nerves around travelling through airports and planes, we were both relieved to get our Covid-19 all-clear on Friday evening. We got on site for the first time on Saturday morning, drove down Magnolia Lane, and it didn’t disappoint!
So far, James has played 9 each day, front, back and back nine again today. From what we are hearing, the overseed is making it play a little differently to normal. It’s playing pretty long and there is effectively no run. Greens are reasonably receptive at the moment. However, with the sub-air under all the greens, Augusta can change that very quickly.
He is playing nicely enough and is getting more comfortable day by day, both with the course and his caddy, Jack, who is a local and knows the place inside out. Today, he had a nice fourball of Tiger, JT, Bryson and Freddie Couples following him around, which made for interesting watching.
We have dodged the rain so far but it is due from tomorrow onwards so that will make things even more interesting. A bit more practice this evening and he will be done for the day.
The main topic of conversation on the range is still about Cork footballers great win over Kerry on Sunday. With the forecast for rain coming in this afternoon, we planned to meet early to get our practice done before the weather came in. James stayed in the Crow’s Nest last night, so no drive down Magnolia Lane for me this morning.
He played the front 9 again today, so now he has covered both nines twice which gives him a good feel for the course and conditions. Gary Woodland joined him for the last two holes which was nice to see him up close. The definition on the course has been really ramped up since we arrived on Saturday. Now it looks like what we are more used to seeing on TV.
By Thursday, it will be picture perfect, which will be a huge achievement with all the challenges they have faced to host this event on this course at this time of year.
Two-time champion Jose Maria Olazabal and Andrew Putnam will be his playing partners for the first two days. The rain thankfully held off so we did a nice bit of putting practice before heading home.
No phones means you won’t be seeing any pics from me as I don’t want to be thrown out before we start at all. Therefore, you will just have to watch the coverage and enjoy for the week. Tomorrow’s plan will depend on the weather so we will see in the morning.
The countdown is well and truly on and the wait is nearly over. Today was always going to be a light day as he had already played the full 18 twice and he was happy enough with the course. The morning was wet but, once the sun pushed through, we headed for the course which is less than 10 minutes from the hotel. The range was busy but we found a spot and did a good practice session. The weather was sauna-like, so much so that I felt sorry for the caddies wearing the boiler suits.
From there we headed for the putting green at the back of the 1st and 10th tees as the one at the range was packed. James’s pace putting has improved daily and was even better today. They are not as quick as they normally are in April, we have been told, which makes them similar to Adare where he has been able to practise in the lead-up to US Open and here. However, the slope and the grain can make them fairly slick and it won’t surprise me if they speed up a bit over next few days.
Tiger obviously had the same idea about the practice area putting green so he arrived over and started hitting a few putts, which gave James his chance. Once Joey (Tiger’s caddie), gave the all-clear, he walked over to Tiger and got his pic. A few nice words were exchanged before both carried on about their business. A moment he will never forget!
At 3.10 the sirens started signalling evacuation due to incoming lightning so we hit back for THE hotel. James must head back to the clubhouse tonight for the Amateur dinner. The forecast for tomorrow is not great with a lot of rain and potential storms but hopefully it will miss us and he will be able to get going at 12.11 off the 10th tee as planned.
I’m not sure how much sleep I will get tonight but thankfully James would sleep on a rock. The work is done, now it’s time for James to go and play golf the way we know he can and enjoy every second of it.
We woke up to torrential rain which led to a 3-hour delay, pushing the tee time from 12.11pm to 3.11pm which meant that nine holes was about as much as he was going to get in. We headed down at 1pm, went to our separate areas for lunch and met on the range just after 2pm. After all the rain, it was hot with 90%+ humidity, but eased as the afternoon went on as the wind picked up a little from the north. James warmed up well and arrived at the 10th tee with a few minutes to spare, as he does.
A perfect high draw (not his normal shape but something he was working on) set the ball rolling nicely. The 9 holes, in summary, as many of you have seen it on the Masters app, were frustrating. Six greens in regulation would normally be a sign of a good score but three three-putts made it very hard to get some forward momentum.
The ball has been picking up a lot of mud and his second shot on 11 decided to do its own thing and turned left rather than right, but he saved a bogey with a greatup-and-down from the drop zone.
His 3-wood into 15 from 215 metres into the wind, over water, was definitely the highlight of his round and shows the shots are there alright.
While it was like a dream for me to be walking around Augusta watching James, I couldn’t but think of all those who couldn’t make the journey, espec-ially Mick and Margaret who have done so much to make this day a reality.
Friday is going to consist of a 7.30am resumption to the first round. Once he finishes, he will then have a break of between 45 to 60 minutes before he starts his second round. If he can keep playing the way he is, and have some more joy on the greens, he will have fun tomorrow.

A 7.30am resumption of the first round meant he arrived and warmed up under huge floodlights. Walking out past the clubhouse towards the first tee, the sub-air was humming everywhere like your central heating boiler, with the main vents sounding more like a plane taxiing down a runway. One over par for the rest of the first round was about the worst he could have shot as, though he putted better, he just wasn’t holing his fair share. However, he walked of the golf course very positive and knowing that he was playing well enough to shoot a score in round 2. A 25-minute break between Round 1 and 2 meant he grabbed some food to put into the golf bag and off they went again.
In Round 2, James played superb golf. When he got to 3-under for the round, the way he was playing, I really felt he could go on to shoot 6 or 7 under. The next 4 holes proved critical. A missed short putt on 9 for par, slightly too much speed on the 12ft birdie putt on 10, and a roll short with his birdie putt on 11 after a brilliant approach from the right trees, just stalled his momentum, leaving him on 2 under for the round.
And then the 12th. All those who have been here know that the wind down in Amen Corner is notoriously difficult to judge. Putnam played first and pulled it long left and was lucky to roll back down out of the shrubs. This might have influenced their decision and he hit a wedge, which he had hit onto the green in practice  earlier in the week. Watching from directly behind in the pines, he struck a lovely shot, just right of the flag and tracking but, as has happened many before him, the wind switched and a gust of wind into him just stalled his ball in the air. As ye have all seen, the ball landed short and spun back into the water. A double-bogey brought him back to level for the round and made making the cut very difficult with the predicted cut being level or even 1 under.
Still, he gathered himself well and birdied 13, thanks to a bit of luck with his ball sticking on the bank for his second shot, and 16 with an excellent 8 iron and putt. His shot of the day was probably his 6 iron second shot on 18 from 172 metres up the hill, straight over the flag.
While his 1 under 71 was a brilliant score, it could have been anything. As a very proud coach, I was delighted for him that he was able to show what he is capable of yet again at this amazing tournament. Considering he hasn’t had a tournament since the Irish Open due to Covid, it was a great performance.
It’s been a great week and one I will never forget. Looking forward to getting back here in a few years’ time for the April version!