By Chris Lang, VSGA manager of media and communications
Matt Sughrue (VSGA photo)
Everything seemed to be going smoothly last summer for Matt Sughrue. The Arlington resident held the 36-hole lead at the British Senior Amateur Championship and was in position to make a run at the title. Then something literally snapped.
Sometime during the final round, he tore two tendons in his elbow. Though he finished the round, his golf career was put on hold for nine months as he underwent intense rehab to get back into playing shape.
“I’m just fortunate to be playing golf again,” he said. “There was a time where that was in doubt.”
Fast forward 13 months to the 15th Senior Open of Virginia at Independence Golf Club. Nearly assured of victory on the 18th green on Tuesday, he left no doubt, slamming home a 25-foot birdie putt before unleashing a heavy fist pump. The shot moved him three strokes clear of the only player who could catch him—Jon Hurst, who was hitting his second shot into the par-4 finishing hole—ensuring his victory.
Sughrue, a member at Trump National Golf Club, Washington, D.C., capped a 4-under round of 68 with that birdie for a two-day aggregate 138 to win the championship by three strokes over Hurst and two-time champion Buck Brittain of Tazewell. And despite his success on the national stage—Sughrue has a run to the final of the U.S. Senior Amateur on his resume—he said this week’s victory at Independence was as sweet as any in his career.
“It might be the pinnacle of my golf career, in terms of victories,” Sughrue said. “This is a storied championship. Some great players have won this thing. It’s on a great championship course in good condition, and it played hard. So I feel very proud to have shot that score. Very proud.”
Sughrue, who paired with Brandon Cigna to win last year’s Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship, began the day a stroke behind Hurst and Maryland professional Sean English. Hurst returned an even-par 72 Tuesday but could never get rolling. His first birdie came on No. 13 when he was 2 over for the day.
“I just couldn’t get it going today,” Hurst said. “I was just kind of plugging around, making pars. … Matt’s a phenomenal guy. I knew he was going to be tough to beat. He’s a great putter, good ball striker. He doesn’t have too many flaws. Plus he’s a real good guy, I’m happy for him.”
English struggled to a 76 and finished in a tie for eighth. Hidden Creek Country Club professional Brendan McGrath and Virginia Golf Hall of Famer Bobby Wadkins each posted two-day even-par totals of 144 to share low professional honors.
Aldie’s Robert Slavonia, who opened the day five shots off the lead, made a charge in his second round, matching Sughrue’s 68 to finish at 2 under overall. Sughrue and Brittain each made the turn at 1 under for the day to move to 3 under, and midway through the back nine, Sughrue started an impressive charge that put the rest of the field in his rearview mirror.
He made birdies at 13, 15 and 18 and played the final six holes at 3 under. The key swing came on No. 15, when Brittain made bogey. Tied heading into the hole, he was suddenly two shots back and could never recover.
“I kept thinking, if I could just make two birdies coming in … I had a good putt on 16 and just left it short, and on 17, it was just over the lip,” Brittain said. “(Sughrue) played solid all day long. His only bogey was on 3. Outside of that, he played great.”
Slavonia finished solo fourth with his 142. University of Virginia men’s golf coach Bowen Sargent posted a 69 on Tuesday to join McGrath and Wadkins at 144, tied for fifth. Defending champion Dave Pulk, who opened the day a shot back of the lead, struggled to a second-round 76 and finished tied for 11th.
The day undoubtedly belonged to Sughrue, who became the fourth straight amateur Senior Open champion and played his best golf down the stretch when it counted most.
“I’m just grateful to be playing golf at all,” he said. “This is just icing on the cake.”
View results for Senior Open of Virginia
ABOUT THE Senior Open of Virginia
Thirty-six holes of stroke play; the
is open to male amateurs and pros, ages 50
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