In a riveting display of golf prowess, Nick Dunlap from Alabama etched his name alongside Tiger Woods in the annals of golf history by clinching the U.S. Amateur title. Starting on a challenging note, Dunlap’s journey to victory showcased remarkable resilience and skill, guided by the experienced Jeff Curl. The 123rd U.S. Amateur final at Cherry Hills Country Club saw Dunlap outshine his opponent Neal Shipley with a resounding 4 and 3 triumph.
Nick Dunlap and His Turnaround Tale
The opening leg of the U.S. Amateur had Dunlap battling an early setback, trailing by five strokes over par after the first seven holes. A pivotal intervention came from his seasoned guide and former professional caddy, Jeff Curl, who steered Dunlap back into contention.
Dunlap expressed his gratitude by acknowledging, “Without him, there is no way I would be standing here” on a Sunday afternoon.
Amidst a tense atmosphere on the 15th green, Dunlap’s grasp on the Havemeyer Trophy spoke volumes. He had fought his way to match play with a two-stroke margin, and that momentum carried him to victory in the final showdown, where he conquered Neal Shipley 4 and 3.
An overwhelmed Dunlap shared his thoughts with NBC after the game, saying, “I can’t even explain it. I don’t know what to say.”
Nick Dunlap is Master of the Match
Winning the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur was the crowning achievement of Dunlap’s stellar performance in match play competitions over the previous two years. With eight match-play competitions under his belt, the 19-year-old had garnered a staggering 30-2 record. An AJGA tournament, two U.S. Junior Amateurs, two university tournaments, and the North, South, and Western Amateurs were all part of this incredible accomplishment. It was only during last summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur defense and the Western Amateur that he faced his sole defeats.
The 30th victory, however, held immense significance, as it not only secured his championship but also earned him a coveted exemption to the Open Championship at Royal Troon in the upcoming summer. Additionally, both finalists secured spots in the 2024 Masters and had previously qualified for the U.S. Open in the following year.
A Place Among Legends
Nick Dunlap now joins a select group, standing alongside the legendary Tiger Woods as one of only two golfers in history to triumph in both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur championships.
Dunlap was asked to reflect on his success, and he modestly said, “Alright, I would say it’s a mere third of all that tiger’s really completed,” referring to Woods’ three wins in each event. In response to being asked about how he felt about being named with Woods, Dunlap enthusiastically said, “Only being included in a similar discussion as Tiger is a dream that’s come reality and everything I have trained all of my life towards.”
Tournament Triumph and Road to Victory
Ranked ninth globally by the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Dunlap’s journey through the tournament was nothing short of remarkable. He initiated the match play phase by besting the world’s number one ranked amateur, Gordon Sargent, in the round of 64. Progressing through Saturday’s rounds, the sophomore from Alabama managed to overcome two SEC competitors, including Parker Bell from Florida, ultimately securing his place in the finals.
On the opposing side, Neal Shipley emerged as an unexpected protagonist of the tournament. The Pittsburgh native mounted a remarkable comeback in the semifinals after trailing by three strokes after ten holes. His tenacity led him to seize the lead on the 16th hole. He secured his victory on the 17th by executing a masterful wedge shot, tapping in for success.
A Thrilling Finale
The 36-hole final proved to be a nail-biting affair, characterized by a total of 20 birdies between the two contenders. The match began with a shared 3-under par score on the first hole. Shipley’s birdie on the 18th hole of the morning round brought them neck and neck as they headed into the midday break.
The second leg of the final saw Dunlap seize control. Dunlaps making his mark with long-range birdie putts on holes 21 and 22 to establish a two-stroke lead. Replicating this feat on holes 27 and 28 extended his advantage and sealed his victory at 4 Up.
While a minor mishap on the 31st hole caused a stumble, Shipley’s subsequent missed double bogey opportunity on the 32nd allowed Dunlap to maintain his advantage. Securing a par on the 33rd hole, Dunlap sealed his triumphant 4&3 win.
In a historic victory that echoed the legacy of Tiger Woods, Nick Dunlap’s exceptional journey through the U.S. Amateur will be etched in golf history as a testament to his skill, determination, and unwavering spirit.