Nick Dunlap and Neal Shipley will play for the U.S. Amateur title (USGA Photo)
Since the spring of 2021, Nick Dunlap, 19, of Huntsville, Ala., has amassed a 29-2 record in the 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 defeated Parker Bell, 19, of Tallahassee, Fla., 3 and 2, on Saturday to earn a berth opposite Neal Shipley, 22, of Pittsburgh, Pa., who earned a come-from-behind, 2-and-1 win over John Marshall Butler, 21, of Louisville, Ky. 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.
“I wasn't mentally defeated, but I knew I was going to have to do something pretty special and continue to hit a lot of good golf shots, and I think I did just that,” said Shipley.
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.
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, which included a Round-of-16 victory over Paul Chang that required floodlights on the 18th green and an extra hole the following morning.
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.
“It was just nice to see one go in,” said Dunlap, who will play for the USA Team against Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup Match in two weeks at St. Andrews, Scotland. “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. Despite the defeat, Bell, who is a sophomore at the University of Florida, gained enormous confidence from his effort this week after a freshman year for the Gators when he was not among the top five players on the team.
Butler made a crucial up-and-down par on No. 14, sinking a 14-footer after Shipley narrowly missed a birdie try that would have tied it, but that only briefly delayed Shipley’s rally, as he went on to win the next three holes for the semifinal victory.
The 36-hole final will start at 8 a.m. MDT on Sunday, with the second 18 of the final beginning at 1 p.m.
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA
championship, was first played in 1895 at
Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The
which has no age restriction, is open to
with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is
of 14 national championships conducted
annually by the USGA, 10 of which are
for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent
competition in the world.
Applications are typically placed online in the spring
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