Newly crowned Amateur Champion Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland will play a starring role at the Irish Open after his brilliant victory at Royal Troon on Saturday evening.
The 23 year old from Portrush defeated Austria’s Matthias Schwab by one hole to become the third Northern Irish winner of the Amateur Championship after Michael Hoey in 2001 and Garth McGimpsey in 1985.
Dunbar will now join his Major winning compatriots Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – as well as Ireland’s three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington and reigning US PGA Champion Keegan Bradley – as one of the stars of the show at Royal Portrush Golf Club.
Dunbar added his own sizeable chapter to Northern Ireland’s 24-month golfing fairytale in a thrilling Amateur Championship final, where he and Schwab exchanged the lead five times before Dunbar’s superior putting stroke eventually won the day on the 36th and final hole at Royal Troon.
A Member of Rathmore Golf Club, which shares the same links land as neighbouring Portrush, Dunbar, was part of last year’s victorious Walker Cup Team and the 2009 St Andrews Links Trophy winner, was treated to a hero’s reception at his home club as he returned home with the Amateur Championship Trophy on Saturday night.
The jubilant scenes were equal to those sparked by McDowell, McIlroy and Clarke over the past two years, following the Major-winning trio’s respective victories in the 2010 and 2011 US Opens and the 2011 Open Championship.
Dunbar, who has has benefitted from coaching through The R&A supported Darren Clarke Foundation, will be rewarded for his victory with a place in next month’s Open Championship, a place in next year's US Open and, traditionally, an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
But before he makes his way to the Majors he will be guaranteed an unbelievable reception at Royal Portrush, which will play host to the first Irish Open in Northern Ireland since 1953, starring in Wednesday’s Pro-Am where he will play alongside European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady.