Alabama’s Nick Dunlap joins Tiger Woods in record books with U.S. Amateur win
On Day 1 of the U.S. Amateur, Nick Dunlap was five over through his first seven holes. His caddie, longtime mentor and former pro Jeff Curl steered him back into the tournament.
“Without him, there would be no chance I’d be standing here,” Dunlap said Sunday afternoon.
Where he was standing was Cherry Hills Country Club‘s 15th green, holding the Havemeyer Trophy. Dunlap made match play by two shots and rode the momentum all the way through the finals where he beat Neal Shipley 4 and 3 to win the 123rd U.S. Amateur.
“I can’t even explain it,” Dunlap told NBC after the match. “I’m at a loss for words.”
Dunlap, the 2021 U.S. Junior Am winner, caps an impressive match play run over the past two years in the format. Including this week, the 19-year-old has played in eight match-play events from an AJGA event, two U.S. Junior Amateurs, two college events and the prestigious North and South, and Western Amateurs over the time period and has compiled a 30-2 record. The only matches he lost were in his U.S. Junior Amateur title defense last summer and at the Western Am.
However, the 30th was by far the biggest, clinching him the biggest win of his career and an exemption into next summer’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. Both finalists had already earned exemptions into next year’s U.S. Open and expected invitations to the 2024 Masters.
With the victory, Dunlap joins Tiger Woods as the only players to win both a U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur title.
“Well I think it’s only a third of what he’s actually done,” Dunlap said, referring to Woods’ three wins in each event. “Just to be in the same conversation as Tiger is a dream come true and something I’ve worked my entire life for.”
Dunlap, the No. 9 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, put up a torrid run to get to the finals. He kicked off match play by knocking out the top-ranked amateur in the world, Gordon Sargent, in the round of 64. The Tide sophomore eliminated two other SEC foes, including Florida’s Parker Bell in Saturday’s semifinal match.
Shipley, meanwhile had become the Cinderella story of the tournament. The 6-foot-3 Pittsburgh native with long brown flowing hair had a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the semis, going 3 Down through 10 holes before rallying to take the lead on 16 then spin a wedge back 30 feet on the 17th to tap-in range to seal the win.
The 22-year-old Ohio State graduate student let all of his emotions out, fist-pumping and high-fiving fans on his way to the green.
Both players brought those same fireworks into the 36-hole final with a combined 20 birdies, including splitting the opening hole with threes. Shipley later birdied the 18th hole of the morning round to go into the lunch break tied.
Dunlap took control during the second 18.
He pulled ahead, making back-to-back long-range birdie puts on the 21st and 22nd to open up a 2 Up lead. He then did it again on the 27th and 28th, this time for a tie and a win to go 4 Up.
He made a mistake on the 31st, failing to even get his fourth shot on the par-4 on the green. Then Shipley had a chance to cut the deficit to 2 Down on the 32nd, but he hit his second in the penalty area and made double.
Dunlap made par on the 33rd to cap off the 4 and 3 victory.