Dunbar daring to dream
GOLF:WHY RUSH? What’s wrong with smelling the roses, or rather the azaleas, at Augusta? Michael Hoey, the last Ulsterman to win the British Amateur before Alan Dunbar got his hands on the famous old trophy last weekend, gave his tuppence worth – when asked – about when or if the new hottest prospect in the Irish game should turn professional.
“Not being negative, but you don’t know that you’re going to get into the top-50 in the world as a pro to get into Augusta. So he’s guaranteed Augusta. I would say you have to wait for that and the US Open. It’s going to be a long career, so there’s plenty of time,” said Hoey, who recalled the advice given to him by Pádraig Harrington when he was considering the pros and cons of staying amateur or turning pro.
Hoey recollected: “Harrington said to me, ‘if it doesn’t go well in your first year as a pro, don’t get totally discouraged because it’s meant to be a long journey.”
“I would say the same. There’s so many good players now, there’s fractions separating people. I would say just don’t get discouraged if the first year doesn’t go well or you don’t get through Q-School or you don’t win a tournament (early) like Graeme (McDowell) or Sergio (Garcia). Just to stay patient, because it’s going to be a long career.”
For his part, Dunbar – already a Walker Cup winner but whose British Amateur win has catapulted him to a new level – has sought to keep his feet firmly on the ground since arriving home to Portrush. He has even sneaked away with coach Seamus Duffy to practice off-site, at Castlerock Golf Club.
“We just looked at the technique on camera, did a few drills to get the sequences right again after last week. Obviously, playing in the wind, your body seems to do different things to keep it (the ball) lower. So it’s just getting the swing back to the way it was a few weeks ago,” said Dunbar.
As the latest player to come off a conveyor belt at Rathmore Golf Club that previously produced McDowell, the 22-year-old is aware there is increased expectation placed on him now as a British Amateur champion with the envelopes inviting him to play in next month’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, and next year’s US Masters and the US Open, confirming that new status.
Dunbar – who has also been invited to play in next month’s Scottish Open, ahead of the following week’s British Open –
plans to attend the European Tour Qualifying School later this season. If he wins a card there, he can actually defer taking it until May 1st: which would enable him to play in the US Masters as an amateur.
For now, though, it’s all about getting his focus back for this week’s Irish Open on a course he knows like the back of his hand. “I’m obviously really looking forward to it. I still haven’t got my head around what happened last week
. . . I’ll take a week off (next week) and sit down and really think about the plans for the future.”
Just over two weeks ago, Dunbar set off on his travels – as an amateur – to take in the St Andrews Links Trophy and the British Amateur. Then, the grandstands and tentage around the links was only taking place.
“To come back and see it all up, it’s definitely a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be. The course is playing well. We’ve had a bit of rain, which is a wee bit disappointing, maybe we would like it to be a bit firmer, but the course is in great shape. I’m just looking forward to playing.
“I think winning (the British Amateur) takes a lot of pressure off for the rest of the year, to have that win in the bag. But I still want to do well, I’m just going to try and play well Thursday and Friday and hopefully get through until the weekend and then have a couple of good rounds.”
Dunbar has played more golf than anyone in the field these past two weeks. His efforts in winning in Troon last week saw him play 11 rounds. “A long week, 11 rounds which is what these guys play in two weeks (on tour). So, I’m a bit tired. But I’ve been resting up and I’ll be ready to give it 100 per cent.”
As for winning? “It’s certainly possible. We are all playing in the tournament and playing for a reason. I’m sure Shane (Lowry) might have been asked that question before he played (at Baltray in 2009), so it is definitely possible.”