Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar pointed to his putting as the key to his one-hole win over Austria’s Matthias Schwab in the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon.
The pair exchanged the lead five times in first 36-hole final to go the distance final since Spain’s Alejandro Larrazabal defeated Martin Sell at Royal Porthcawl in 2002.
But the 22 year old’s experience paid off in the end as he holed key putts at crucial times to continue an incredible run of victories for Northern Ireland golfers following US Open wins for Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell and that Open victory by Darren Clarke in Sandwich last year.
As a Portrush native, Dunbar joins major winners Clarke and McDowell on the winning trail, just over a week after Royal Portrush’s Stephanie Meadow holed the winning putt for Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup at Nairn.
“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.”
Dunbar will now join Padraig Harrington, Clarke, McIlroy and Dowell in next month’s Open at Royal Lytham as well as next year’s Masters and US Open.
On earning the right to join his fellow Northern Irishmen McDowell, Clarke and McIlroy in the majors, he told Golfweek’s Alastair Tait: “It would be some experience to play with those three.”
According to the R&A:
About 40 members of Rathmore Golf Club endured a day of wind and rain having made the ferry ride from Larne to Troon to cheer their man on.
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.”
The match went back to all square after eight holes when Schwab birdied the par-4, 7th hole and Dunbar missed the 8th 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, declared his ball unplayable and subsequently 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-5, 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 Great Britain & Ireland 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.”
Schwab leaves Royal Troon as one for the future. He will look to make his third straight cut in the European Tour’s Austrian Open later this summer, and starts college golf in the United States at Vanderbilt next September.
“It’s all right for me,” Schwab said. “I’m happy to be second. I came here to make the cut and made the final so there’s no need to be negative.”
Schwab was hoping to become the first Austrian to win the Amateur Championship, and the first to play in the Masters. He still might attain that goal, because he left here vowing to learn from his experience.
“It was good for me to see that I can compete with the best amateurs in the world,” Schwab said. “I drove the ball well and hit good iron shots but there are lots of deficits in my short game, my chipping and putting, so I know what to work on.”
Dunbar has benefitted from coaching through The R&A supported Darren Clarke Foundation. He gains a place in next month’s Open Championship, 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.