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August 20, 2023

History making win for Huntsville’s Nick Dunlap

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Nick Dunlap at U.S. Amateur

Joins Tiger Woods in rare feat

Nick Dunlap put himself in some rarefied air Sunday afternoon by winning the U.S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver.

Nick Dunlap with U.S. Amateur trophy
Nick Dunlap won the 2023 U.S. Amateur Championship, besting Neal Shipley 4&3.

Dunlap, a rising sophomore at the University of Alabama and Huntsville native,  capped off a summer to remember with a 4&3 win over Neal Shipley of Pittsburgh in the 36-hole final. The two were tied after 18 holes in the morning round, but Dunlap, who plays at Canebrake Golf Club in Athens and Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, took the lead for good with a long birdie putt on the third hole of the afternoon round.

Combined with some mistakes by Shipley, Dunlap pulled away from there. Dunlap joins Tiger Woods as the only players to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and the U.S. Amateur. Woods won each of them three times.

He also is the first University of Alabama golfer since Jerry Pate in 1974 to win the U.S. Amateur.

In addition to having his name engraved on the Havemeyer Trophy, Dunlap ensured berths in the 2024 Master Championship, U.S. Open Championship and the Open Championship. Dunlap also is a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team that will travel to St. Andrews in two weeks.

It was Dunlap’s third win this summer

Nick Dunlap wants to make history

Quite the week for a player who was 5-over par through seven holes in the first round of qualifying last Monday. He credited his longtime friend/caddie Jeff Curl with helping keep him focused on the task.

“Without him, there’s no chance I would be standing here,” Dunlap said. “I told him one of my main goals is to make history. That’s what I wanted to do. For him to be along side with me means the world.”

Curl, who played professionally and whose father Rod was a PGA Tour winner, said Sunday’s championship was his top moment in golf.

“It’s the greatest thing – just to give back,” Curl said. “My dad selflessly has helped people all his life and he passed that on to me. I didn’t quite get to where I wanted to be in golf but to help Nick and others, it’s just the greatest feeling. I wouldn’t trade anything I have done or to go further than where I was for this moment.”

Dunlap joked about his name being alongside Tiger Woods in USGA history.

“I think it is only one-third of what he has actually done,” he said. “But just to be in the same conversation as Tiger is a dream come true and something I have worked my entire life for. The hours and hours that nobody sees to try to get to this point and even have a chance to win this trophy is just unbelievable. I can’t put it into words.”

Tide coach: ‘I get to come along and watch what nobody sees’

Dunlap won in front of his parents, Alabama coach Jay Seawell, and several of his Crimson Tide teammates who flew in overnight for the final round.

Both players shot 5-under in the opening 18, and perhaps the key moment of the match came on the 27th hole with Dunlap holding a 3-up lead. With Shipley facing a 5-foot birdie putt to possibly win the hole, Dunlap calmly knocked in a lengthy birdie putt of his own. Shipley made his birdie as well, but instead of grabbing momentum he was fortunate to walk away still 3-down.

“Nick played great, and he just made a lot of putts on me this afternoon,” said Shipley, a graduate student at Ohio State who also earned a spot in the 2024 U.S. Open and a likely Masters invitation. “You know, that’s what it takes to win these things. He has what it takes, obviously, and I just didn’t really play my best today. It is what it is.”

Sewell said it was hard to explain what it means watching Dunlap succeed.

“I think he said it best that the great part of being a coach is that I get to come along and watch what nobody sees,” Seawell said. “The hard work, the want-to, the grind. The blood, sweat and tears. I’m a proud coach today. I’m so proud of Nick – he’s a great champion. I’ve known him since he was 11 years old – he was made for this. He’s just a winner.”

Dunlap was 9-under for 33 holes Sunday; Shipley finished 4-under. Dunlap took out three SEC rivals during match play during the week, including a 2&1 win over Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur who is from Birmingham.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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All photos courtesy of Kathryn Riley/USGA

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