“Matt just has a vision of wanting to be of help to people,” said Eric McCollum, the graduate program’s director, who served as Sughrue’s thesis advisor. “It would have been very easy for Matt, given his professional background, to move right into private practice with well-off clients. But with the work that he’s doing in shelters in the area, he’s really picked out a group of people that’s easy to ignore and has put forth a wonderful effort to give a voice to people who really have very little voice.”
Where, then, could golf fit? In 1990, Sughrue gave up his membership at Bethesda, and he essentially put down the game. When he took it up again around 2000, he “had no intention of playing good golf, or expectations that I would.” But he began working with Wayne DeFrancesco, the noted teacher and director of instruction at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, and started getting the feel again. In 2007, at 48, he qualified for the U.S. Amateur.
“I love competition at a high level, and I love the preparation required — the process of preparing for that,” Sughrue said. “I guess I’m somewhat goal-oriented. . . . It just makes me feel better that I’ve got something I’m working on like that.”
A couple of years ago, Carolyn Sughrue, moved by Matt’s enthusiasm, took up golf and began working with Bob Dolan, the longtime pro at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase. Dolan has known Matt for years, and one day after one of Carolyn’s lessons, the two started talking. How could Matt, with little time for golf, get better at it?
They went with two thoughts: tighten up Sughrue’s short game and address a small problem in his swing plane. “He took those, and did the rest himself,” Dolan said.
Dolan played in the morning wave of that same qualifier at Musket Ridge, and when he stopped for lunch, he knew someone could go low in the afternoon. He knew, too, it could be Sughrue. The 66 earned him, free and clear, a spot in the 156-man Senior Open field.
“I was just overwhelmed,” Sughrue said. “To play my best golf when it meant the most is very gratifying.”
So Perry and Sluman — not to mention Tom Watson and Fred Couples and Tom Lehman and their like — can draw the galleries in Omaha. They have given their lives to golf, and golf has given back. When it’s over, Matt Sughrue will return to Arlington knowing that whatever he gives to his sport, he will have more to give — more to do, more to accomplish — in a whole new life.