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August 18, 2023

Alabama’s Dunlap, Auburn’s Butler reach US Am semifinals

By Alabama Golf News Staff
Nick Dunlap US AMateur

Dunlap faces Florida's Parker Bell

Anything and everything can happen when it comes to Alabama and Auburn getting together on a playing field.

Auburn famously returned a missed field goal to stun the Crimson Tide in what is now known as the Kick-Six Iron Bowl game in 2013. Eight years later, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young led a 97-yard game-tying TD in the closing seconds of the 2021 Iron Bowl the Tide ended up winning in four overtimes.

Butler at the US AMateur
John Marshall Butler faces Neal Shipley in Saturday’s U.S. Amateur semifinal match (Photo: Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Those are just two examples of the Tide and Tigers tangling. On Friday at the U.S. Amateur Championship, Nick Dunlap of the University of Alabama, and incoming Auburn freshman Jackson Koivun staged a classic of their own, with the rising Tide sophomore prevailing in 19 holes.

With the victory, Dunlap moved into Saturday’s semifinals and a step closer to completing a rare feat of winning both the U.S. Junior Amateur (2021) and the U.S. Amateur.

Dunlap beat Koivun in dramatic fashion with a curling 20-foot birdie putt on Cherry Hills Country Club’s famous first hole. After Dunlap made his putt Koivun’s 12-footer to tie just missed.

Dunlap plays Parker Bell, who plays at the University of Florida, in the semifinals. It’s the third all-SEC matchup of the tournament for Dunlap, who also downed Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent in the Round of 64.

Bell beat Ben James in his semifinal match. The other semifinal match features Auburn’s John Marshall Butler against Neal Shipley, of Pittsburgh, who is a graduate student at Ohio State.
Dunlap, who was 2-down early, allowed his match with Koivun to get to extra holes with a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole.

“I know it’s hard to win; it’s hard to win for him, it’s hard to win for me, and just give all you got,” Dunlap told “That just shows, I was feeling like I was in a bad spot on the last hole, and you never know what can happen. I felt like if I could somehow give myself a putt and make it, you never know what happens. Fortunately it all turned out in my favor.”

Nick Dunlap: ‘All I could do was hit a good putt’

Dunlap said he won on a day when he said he didn’t make many putts.

“I’m normally pretty good inside 10 feet, and I missed two coming down the stretch,” he said. “That’ll shake you up a little bit. [On the last putt] All I could do was hit a good putt. If I hit a good putt and miss and he makes it, I can wrap my head around that. Fortunately, I looked up, and it crested, went right over the spike mark we were looking at.”

Bell, 19, of Tallahassee, Florida, outlasted a furious rally by James, of Milford, Connecticut, who is No. 6 in the WAGR and was the winner of the Phil Mickelson Award as the top freshman in the country for the University of Virginia. Just when it appeared that James might complete his rally from 2 down with three to play, he missed a 2½-foot putt for bogey on No. 18 and settled for matching 6s with Bell, who also took three to get down from the side of the steeply pitched green.

Butler had to wait overnight to finish his delayed match with Paul Chang after finishing in darkness Thursday night. He won the first extra hole with a par and then led from the first hole in his 3-and-2 quarterfinal victory over Jose Islas, 20, of Mexico, a junior at the University of Oregon.

18-hole seminfinals on Saturday, 36-hole final on Sunday

“I was just really in control of my game mentally and physically,” said Butler of his quarterfinal performance. “Never was rattled. José is a great player. He hit some very high-quality iron shots. But I just stuck to my game plan, played very resiliently. I have all week.”

Butler had to make somewhat of a miracle par on the final hole of his match with Chang to get to the quarterfinals after driving into the lake on the 18th hole.

“I guess I just had so much adrenaline going that [my 18th-hole tee shot] went in the water, dropped, got a perfect number with a gap wedge, and just really dialed in on that,” he said. “Just heard everybody up at the green screaming, and I was like, oh, my gosh, did it go in? Because it was like one of those roars. Then came out this morning and finished it off. But Paul is a great player. We had a fantastic match, probably one of the best matches I’ll have in my life.”

Shipley prevailed, 2 & 1, in a back-and-forth matchup with Andi Xu, 21, of the People’s Republic of China..

The semifinal matches will start at noon and 11:15 a.m. CDT on Saturday and the 36-hole final will start at 6 a.m. Sunday, with the second 18 of the final beginning at 1 p.m.

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Featured image of Nick Dunlap courtesy of Kathyrn Riley/USGA

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