Dunbar lands British Amateur title

The Irish Times – Monday, June 25, 2012Alan Dunbar plays a shot at the final of the Amateur Championships at Royal Troon, Scotland. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty

CHRIS SMART

ALAN DUNBAR heads into the Irish Open at Royal Portrush this week with confidence sky high after becoming only the third Northern Irishman in history to land the coveted British Amateur title.

Only Garth McGimpsey at Dornoch in 1985 and Michael Hoey at Prestwick 16 years later have brought the crown to Ulster and after the 22-year-old from Rathmore lifted the imposing trophy aloft 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 win it.

In the first Amateur final to go the distance since Alejandro Larrazabal defeated Martin Sell at Porthcawl a decade ago, Dunbar edged a one-hole victory over Austrian teenager Matthias Schwab, who missed a four-foot putt on the home green to lose the opportunity of taking 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,” said Dunbar, who played nine rounds of golf on his way to the title.

His victory brings with it many rewards – automatic qualification for the British and US Opens and the Masters, but Dunbar sprung a surprise by saying that he would still go for his European Tour card at the end of the year, and that if he got a full one he may well take it rather than play at Augusta.

“A definite start in 20 European events must be worth a lot. It would be hard not to accept the card but it would be a nice dilemma to have and quite frankly I do not know what I would do,” said Dunbar.

Dunbar struggled somewhat with his long game during the first 18 holes of the final and found himself one down at lunchtime.

The lead changed hands altogether six times during the final but Dunbar said that when he went two up after 22 holes he thought he had “got it”. But then things seemed to change as the 17-year-old Austrian won the 25th with a birdie three, and the famous Postage Stamp when Dunbar overhit the green.

That brought them back to level before Schwab grabbed the initiative at the 30th when Dunbar hooked into bushes and had to take a penalty drop.

He 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, chipped up to four feet while Dunbar was on the back of the putting surface some 50 feet from the stick and lagged it up to two feet. Then came the drama as Schwab missed and Dunbar had the easiest tap-in to claim a brilliant victory.

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