Dunbar claims British Amateur title
Golf:Alan Dunbar becomes the latest golfer from Northern Ireland to light up the golf world after winning the British Amateur Championship at Royal Troon. The 23-year-old defeated Austrian teenager Matthias Schwab by one hole to become the third Northern Irish winner after Michael Hoey in 2001 and Garth McGimpsey in 1985.The Rathmore player takes the British Amateur Championship trophy back to Northern Ireland hard on the heels of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy winning the 2010 and 2011 US Opens, and Darren Clarke’s victory in last year’s British Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
Dunbar’s experience, and his putting stroke, paid off against the 17-year-old Austrian in the first final to go all 36 holes since Spain’s Alejandro Larrazabal defeated Martin Sell at Royal Porthcawl in 2002.
Dunbar and Schwab exchanged the lead five times in the 36-hole final, in one of the most closely fought matches in the championship, with Dunbar holing key putts at crucial times to seal victory.
“My putting was great all week,” Dunbar said. “I struggled with the long game as the week went on and I had to rely on my putting.”
A large gallery braved wind and rain to watch the final, with about 40 members of Rathmore Golf Club who had made the ferry ride from Larne to Troon to cheer their man on. They were treated to great golf in trying conditions from the two finalists.
Schwab entered the afternoon round with a one-hole advantage after just edging the first 18 holes. However, Dunbar went two up after five holes of the afternoon session when he played the first four holes in one under-par and Schwab in two over.
“I thought I had it, but then I struggled,” admitted Dunbar.
The match went back to all square after eight holes when Schwab birdied the par-four seventh hole and Dunbar missed the eighth green, the Postage Stamp.
Dunbar hooked his ball into long rough left of the green and could only hack his ball out. He conceded the hole to go back to all square.
Schwab went one up at 12 when Dunbar hit another hook, this time off the tee. He found a bush left of the fairway, took an unplayable and conceded the hole.
The match went all square at 15 when Schwab failed to get up and down from left of the green. However, the contest’s see-saw nature returned at the par-five 16th when Dunbar found two fairway bunkers en route to a bogey six.
Dunbar’s experience of winning the 2009 St Andrews Links Trophy and winning two points out of three in last year’s victorious GB&I Walker Cup team paid off over the last two holes.
Dunbar made pars at 17 and 18 while Schwab failed to get up and down to save par on both holes. The match ended when the young Austrian missed his four-foot par putt on the final green.
A meeting from his coach shortly before travelling to Troon might have made the difference for Dunbar.
“I had a lesson with my coach Seamus Duffy last week at Castlerock, and he said if you win the Amateur you’re taking me to the Masters. So I suppose that was a bit of motivation.”
Dunbar gains a place in next month’s British Open, a place in next year's US Open and traditionally, an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. His next appointment is an invitation to next week’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush.