NORTHERN Ireland golfer Alan Dunbar booked his place in the field for next month’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham as he became only the third player from that country ever to win the Amateur Championship.
Dunbar, easily the lowest-ranked player in last September’s Walker Cup, beat 17-year-old Austrian Matthias Schwab on the final green of the 36-hole final at Royal Troon.
As a result he will be off to The Open and next year’s Masters and United States Open.
Previous Northern Irish winners were Garth McGimpsey in 1985 and Michael Hoey in 2001.
The lead changed hands five times and Schwab was one up with two to play, but bogeyed them both. He missed a four-foot putt that would have taken the contest into sudden death.
“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 has benefitted from coaching through the Royal and Ancient Club-supported Darren Clarke Foundation. Open champion Clarke makes his return this week from a month out resting a groin injury when he competes in the Irish Open.
n THERE was no wild partying for England’s Danny Willett after his first European Tour win - he had 36 holes to play at Sunningdale today.
The 24-year-old from Sheffield finally tasted victory after no fewer than 19 top-10 finishes when he beat Australian Marcus Fraser on the fourth hole of a play-off at the BMW International Open in Cologne.
He was teeing off again as part of a 96-strong field battling for 10 places in next month’s Open.
“It’s a lot of events,” said Willett when reminded that he had finally won at the 106th time of asking.
“I’ve been in some terrible places mentally.
“When you are in your bad spells you doubt whether you are good enough to win or compete.”
n RETIRED footballer Colin Greenall wasn’t the only soccer man trying to qualify for the Open today.
While ex-Seasider Greenall was taking part in regional qualifying at Clitheroe, West Ham’s Gary O’Neill, a current first teamer at Upton Park, was taking part in a similar phase at The London Club.