What the U.S. Am champ focused on when the pressure picked up

When the 2023 Walker Cup begins later this week at St. Andrews in Scotland, all eyes will be on one of the U.S. team’s stars: Nick Dunlap, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at the University of Alabama.

Dunlap just made some significant history by becoming only the second male player ever to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur, which Dunlap claimed earlier this month at Cherry Hills CC in Colorado. The other player? Tiger Woods.

Winning the U.S. Am is quite a feat, requiring a lot of golf over the course of a week. It starts with 36 holes of stroke play to identify the top 64 players, who then face off in match play. After firing rounds of 72-70, Dunlap claimed the No. 41 seed. In his first match, he faced a formidable opponent in Gordon Sargent, the top-ranked amateur in the world who was also the 2023 NCAA individual champion and low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open at Los Angeles CC.

Dunlap won that match 2 and 1 though he didn’t win his first hole until No. 10. He won his Round of 32 match 4 and 2, and then won the Round of 16 match 5 and 3. In the quarterfinals, Dunlap won in 19 holes, and he won 3 and 2 in the semifinal. Dunlap’s final 36-hole match against Neal Shipley was close for the first 18, but Dunlap pulled away, ultimately triumphing 4 and 3.

Nick Dunlap reacts to making a long putt on hole 27 during the final match of the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills C.C. in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.
Alabama’s Nick Dunlap joins Tiger Woods in record books with U.S. Amateur win
By: Jack Hirsh

It’s tough to tell just how difficult the matches were for Dunlap based on his winning tallies, but on this week’s episode of Subpar, Dunlap explained to hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz how he got through the championship’s most pressure-packed moments — especially when he was on the cusp of making the final, which grants a berth in the Masters to both participants.

“I was more nervous against Gordon than I was the entire week until the finals match. This just goes back to my respect for Gordon and his game. I felt like if I could get by him, I could make it a good ways,” Dunlap said.

“I’ve talked to [sports psychologist] Bhrett McCabe a lot, and I talked to him a lot throughout that week. Like, look, we have a process, let’s stick to it. And if somebody can beat me in my process, then great. So be it. Hat’s off to them. But I’m not gonna get out of my rhythm and my process for somebody, whether they hit a good shot.

“And I think that helped me once the pressure amped up,” he continued. “I realized, look, I’ve done this four times. I’m sticking to the process, I’m sticking to what I can do. Something that, I think everybody kind of knows about it, whether it’s the PGA Tour U, the PGA Tour accelerated, the Masters exemptions, the U.S. Open, I think something I’ve done in the past is try to push all that away and not acknowledge it. And something I talked with Bhrett a lot this week is let’s embrace that. You can’t tell you mind what to think about or what not to think about. Let’s embrace that and take it for what it’s worth and go after what we want and execute our game plan.”

For more from Dunlap, including his relationship with Nick Saban, check out the full interview below.

Golf.com Editor

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.