Plays 36 holes Sunday for U.S. Am title.
Since the spring of 2021, Huntsville’s Nick Dunlap, 19, has amassed a 29-2 record in match-play competition. That includes a 6-0 mark on the way to the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur title, and five victories this week at Cherry Hills Country Club. On Sunday, Dunlap will seek his 30th and biggest victory in the 36-hole final of the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship.
Dunlap, the No. 9 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, defeated Parker Bell, 19, of Tallahassee, Florida, 3 & 2, on Saturday to earn a berth opposite Neal Shipley, 22, of Pittsburgh, who earned a come-from-behind, 2 & 1 win over John Marshall Butler, 21, of Louisville, Kentucky.
Shipley’s dramatic victory was sealed by a third shot on the par-5, island-green 17th hole that stopped inches from the hole for a birdie. It also prevented another Alabama-Auburn showdown in a week in which Dunlap is 3-0 vs SEC rivals.
Dunlap will also try to become only the second player to win the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Amateur. The other? Tiger Woods.
Trailing Bell through seven holes, Dunlap hit a 7-iron to within 8 feet to birdie the eighth and tie the match. Dunlap won No. 9 with a par, then sank a downhill 30-footer for another birdie on the par-3 12th.
Nick Dunlap: ‘I felt the momentum switch a little bit’
“It was just nice to see one go in,” Dunlap, who will play for the USA Team against Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup Match in two weeks at St. Andrews, Scotland, told USGA.org.
“I got the tee; I felt the momentum switch a little bit. I was able to put some heat on him, put it in the fairway, put it on the green. Try to make him do something.”
Dunlap won his third par-3 hole of the day with a par on No. 15 when Bell missed the green and made bogey.
“Handed him two gifts early, but I let it linger and I shouldn’t have,” Dunlap said.
“Took me until probably 8 or 9 to get over it. I was pretty determined today, I’m out here for four hours, let’s give it all I’ve got for four hours, and if it doesn’t go my way it doesn’t go my way, but I wasn’t going to let the same thing happen.”
The two finalists have earned spots in the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort. They are also expected to receive invitations into the 2024 Masters Tournament. The champion will also earn a berth in the 2024 Open Championship at Royal Troon.
Shipley, a graduate student at Ohio State University who played at James Madison University before joining the Ohio State program last year, was 3 down after 10 holes to Butler, a senior at Auburn University. Shipley chipped away with winning birdies on 11 and 12, then tied the match for the first time since the fifth hole when Butler’s pitch shot for a tying par on the par-3 15th hit the flagstick and softly spun out.
Auburn’s Butler saw his match slip away
Shipley won No. 16 with a two-putt par after an errant tee shot by Butler, setting up the dramatic clinching birdie. Shipley’s 93-yard third shot landed some 30 feet past the hole and spun back toward it, looking for a moment as though it would fall into the hole. The conceded birdie forced Marshall to hole his chip shot from the side of the green to extend the match. He missed just short and below the hole to put an end to his successful week.
“I felt in control of the match. I felt in control of my golf swing,” Butler said. “I kind of let him back in, and I made some amateur mistakes for sure. Hitting it in the water on 12 and missing the green on 15, hitting it in the hazard on 12 and 15. Hit it on the green on 15, and I have all the momentum. But unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
While disappointed with the loss, Butler is hyped for his senior season at Auburn after a strong showing by Tigers at the U.S. Amateur.
“We had four guys in the Round of 32,” he said, “I’m going to tell them it just wasn’t my day, but we’ve got bigger things ahead of us at Auburn. I believe we’ll have the best team in the country and we’ll have a chance to win a national championship. You’re going to see us very soon.”
The 36-hole final will start at 9 a.m. CDT on Sunday, with the second 18 of the final beginning at 2 p.m.
Featured image of Nick Dunlap and caddie Jeff Curl courtesy of Kathryn Riley/USGA