U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
2016 Finalist Sughrue Following His Own Advice
August 29, 2017 | Minneapolis, Minn.
By Ron Driscoll
Matt Sughrue took what he calls “a major detour” in his life after 25 years in the insurance business to become a psychotherapist.
He is navigating the detours and pitfalls nicely so far this week as he attempts to return to the championship final of the U.S. Senior Amateur. Sughrue, who lost to Dave Ryan, 2 up, in 2016 at Old Warson Country Club, in St. Louis, Mo., rolled into Tuesday afternoon’s Round of 16 with a 4-and-3 victory over John Fisher. Sughrue, the No. 2 seed in match play, will take on fellow Virginian Keith Decker, at 1:40 p.m. CDT at The Minikahda Club. Decker, the No. 15 seed, rallied from 3 down to eliminate Gene Elliott, 1 up, in the morning.
On the way to last year’s final match, Sughrue, 58, of Arlington, Va., was asked how he handled the pressure and emotion of the match-play grind. His succinct answer: “I ask myself, what would I tell myself? Then I tell myself that.”
This week, Sughrue has been telling himself to forget about 2016.
“It’s not hard to block that out,” said Sughrue, who shot rounds of 68-72 over the weekend to earn the No. 2 seed. “I had a great experience last year, and a great match against Dave [Ryan]. But last year has no bearing on this year whatsoever.”
What has had an impact is Sughrue’s play, and his ability to seize the momentum at key times. On Monday in his Round-of-64 battle with Dave Szewczul, the two were all square before Sughrue went birdie-eagle-birdie on holes 11-13.
“I hit a 9-iron to 6 feet and made that putt for birdie, which I considered the turning point,” said Sughrue, who was influenced as a youngster by U.S. Amateur champion and former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. On the par-4 12th, which was set up at a drivable 270 yards, Sughrue hit his tee shot 15 feet directly below the hole and rolled in the putt for an eagle. He added an 8-foot birdie putt after playing what he called “a perfect” par-5 13th, and the match was on his side of the ledger for good.
“Once the ‘match-play march,’ as I call it begins, you have to play really well and be a little bit lucky to win five matches and make it to the final,” said Sughrue. “I don’t have any expectations of that at all. My motto is to play each match as well as I can, knock them down one at a time.”
Two down, four to go as Sughrue marches on.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.