Monday 20 November 2017

Dunbar looks to pro-ranks after dramatic Amateur glory

Chris Smart

Alan Dunbar heads into the Irish Open at Royal Portrush this week with his confidence sky high after becoming only the third Northern Irishman in history to land the British Amateur Championship.

Only Garth McGimpsey at Dornoch in 1985 and Michael Hoey at Prestwick 16 years later have brought the crown to Ulster and after 22-year-old Dunbar from Rathmore lifted the trophy at Royal Troon on Saturday evening he said: "There must be something about the Scottish air."

He is also the first Irishman since Brian McElhinney at Royal Birkdale seven years ago to take the title.

Dunbar edged a one-hole victory over Austrian teenager Matthias Schwab, who missed a four-foot putt on the home green to spurn the chance to take the match into sudden death.

He attributed his success to his putting. "It was good throughout the week. I holed a number of real monster putts."

This success brings with it many rewards, including automatic qualification for the British Open, US Open and the Masters, but Dunbar said that he would still go for his European Tour card at the end of the year and if he got a full one, he may well take it rather than playing at Augusta.

"A definite start in 20 European events must be worth a lot. It would be hard not to accept the card," he said.

The lead changed hands six times during the final. Dunbar admitted that when he went two up after 22 holes he thought he had "got it," but then the tide seemed to change.

The pair halved the 23rd with birdie twos and the 17-year-old Austrian won the 25th with a birdie three and the 26th when the Rathmore man overhit the green. That drew the two level and Schwab grabbed the initiative at the 30th when Dunbar hooked into bushes and had to take a penalty drop.

The Austrian was still one up going to the short 35th, where he bunkered his tee shot to allow Dunbar to square. At the last, Schwab was to the left of the green in rough and chipped up to four feet; Dunbar was on the back of the putting surface some 50 feet from the stick and lagged it to two feet.

Then came the drama as Schwab somehow missed and Dunbar had a tap-in to claim the biggest prize of his career.

Irish Independent

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