Amateur runner-up Euan Walker will learn from feeling ‘gutted’
With berths in The Open, The Masters and the US Open up for grabs, the Ayrshireman lost to home player James Sugrue in Saturday’s 36-hole title decider at Portmarnock, where Walker fought back brilliantly from being five down after nine holes in the morning to take the contest the full distance.
It was a gutsy effort from 23-year-old Walker in his bid to become the second Kilmarnock (Barassie) player to claim the title in the amateur game’s blue riband event after Gordon Sherry’s success at Royal Liverpool in 1995.
“He’s going to be gutted as I was a few years ago, but it’s about learning and he can take lots of positives from the week,” said Bob MacIntyre, who lost in the 2016 final to Englishman Scott Gregory at Royal Porthcawl.
“You have started out among 288 players and made it to the final. Knowing exactly what’s on the line in the line in that is hard to forget and I still think about what could have been. You just have to believe you’ll get the chance again and it may just end up differently next time.”
MacIntyre, who bounced back from his disappointment to become a European Tour card holder, added: “The consolation for Euan is that he’s secured his Walker Cup spot, as well as a spot in the US Amateur. So he’s got a great year ahead and I am sure there will be some management companies wanting to sign him at the end of the year, when he’s going to do what’s right for him.”
Walker, who won the African Amateur Championship at Leopard Creek earlier in the year, was left to rue a slow start, losing the first three holes to hand Mallow man Sugrue an early impetus in front of a crowd that was estimated to be 5,000-strong.
When he got back to square for the first time since the start with three holes to play, the tide looked to have turned Walker’s way only for Sugrue to get his nose in front again as he went on to become the first Irishman to claim the coveted crown since Alan Dunbar at Royal Troon in 2012.
“It was an amazing week,” Walker told The Scotsman. “I’m gutted to lose in the final but, reflecting on the whole week, it was very special. I played well throughout the rounds, although in all the matches and even in the strokeplay had to find a way to make birdies to fight through to the next stage.
“I did find myself behind a lot, but I think I was able to be very mentally resilient to stay in the matches and eventually comeback to win them all but the final. I felt that I holed many good putts throughout the week to stay in holes and put pressure on my opponents.”
Barely getting a chance to catch breath, Walker is off to Austria this week for the European Amateur Championship before leading Scotland into battle in the European Team Championship in Sweden in a fortnight’s time. Having been included in the initial Great Britain & Ireland squad for the Walker Cup, he now looks a certainty to make the final 10 for Craig Watson’s side to face the Americans at Royal Liverpool in early September.
“I have a couple of big European events in the next few weeks, which I will be keen to perform similarly well in,” added Walker.
“I just have to keep focused daily on my performance and, if I am successful at that, then I’m hopeful that I will make the Walker Cup team. But certainly my performance this week was a great asset for my Walker Cup bid. “