To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
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Hometown: Portrush, Northern Ireland
How he qualified: 2012 British Amateur champion
Reigning British Amateur champion Alan Dunbar travels to this year’s Masters with much experience to call upon. He is one of four Northern Irishmen in this year’s field.
He can learn a lot from the other three.
Dunbar joins Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke at Augusta National. What the 22-year-old wouldn’t give to be low Northern Irishman in this year’s Masters. Forget about making the cut, he might just win the green jacket if that were to happen.
Don’t bet on it, though. British Amateur champions don’t normally make the 36-hole cut at Augusta unless they are from Continental Europe. Matteo Manassero (2010) and Sergio Garcia (1999) are the only two British Amateur champions in recent memory to make the cut in the Masters.
Dunbar earned his place at Augusta courtesy of a 1-hole victory over Austria’s Matthias Schwab in last year’s 36-hole British Amateur final at Royal Troon. Dunbar joins McDowell, McIlroy, Clarke and Stephanie Meadow as the latest golfers from the tiny province of Northern Ireland to earn fame. Of course McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke are major champions, while Meadow earned the winning point in last year’s Curtis Cup before winning the Ladies’ British Amateur Championship.
Dunbar’s chances of making the Masters cut aren’t great because of his upbringing. A member of Rathmore Golf Club in Portrush, Dunbar has been weaned on links golf. As the three recent Northern Irish winners of the British Amateur discovered, the low ball doesn’t suit Augusta. Brian McElhinney won the 2005 Amateur Championship and then missed the 2006 Masters cut. Michael Hoey made his Masters debut in 2002 as 2001 British Amateur Champion and only lasted two rounds. Former two-time Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain Garth McGimpsey earned a ticket to Augusta in 1986 and 1987 courtesy of winning the 1985 British Amateur. He missed both 36-hole cuts.
Dunbar is a good player. Good enough to have recorded a 2-1 record in helping Great Britain & Ireland win the 2011 Walker Cup. He first came to prominence in 2009 when he won the prestigious St Andrews Links Trophy.
What Dunbar has in his favor is a low-key approach to the game that should help him deal with the challenges of Augusta National. “I’m quite a calm guy. I’ve got a lot of patience,” Dunbar admits.
He’ll need it to last four rounds of this year’s Masters. Don’t bank on it though.
Dunbar actually thought of passing on his Masters invitation. After winning the British last year, he said he would pass on his Augusta ticket if he managed to obtain a European Tour card. He entered the European Tour Q School but missed at second stage, withdrawing after three rounds with scores of 75, 78 and 73.
The Northern Irishman will turn professional immediately after the Masters. A good performance in the year’s first major would help him attain sponsorship and hopefully a few more European Tour invites. The smart money says he doesn’t last four rounds – no matter what McIlroy and company might tell him.