The European Challenge Tour is regarded as the best school for fledgling golfers to develop from promising amateurs to polished professionals and this was certainly a case of gifted young stars coming of age.Korean An, the 2009 US Amateur Champion who holds the record as the youngest winner of the prestigious event, and 2012 Amateur Champion Dunbar have both shown in the non-paid ranks that they have the talent to reach the headiest heights of the game.
And in an incredible morning at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club in Northern Scotland, they both proved that they can also cut it in the professional ranks with breath-taking performances.Dunbar got off to a poor start after teeing off at the 11th, bogeying his opening two holes, but that did not deter the 23 year old as he fired 11 birdies to smash the course record almost exactly a year after his biggest win as an amateur.
“I was in just the zone,” said Dunbar, whose Amateur Championship win came at Royal Troon in Scotland. “I’ve been playing well all year now, shooting good scores but missing the cut by a couple of shots. It’s good to put it all together and have a strong round.“It’s a tough start, starting on 11. It a tough opening hole and 12 is tough too. I missed the first two greens and made two bogeys so it was a really good 62.
“I panicked a wee bit after the bogeys to be honest because the longer it goes on the harder it is to get it back. That has been my problem really, shooting level par is not really good enough on the Challenge Tour, so it’s nice to get something going.“I felt like a round like this was coming. I have been saying to my coach that I am playing well, and most of my rounds could easily have been four or five better. Even after the start I was confident of hitting good shots.”
Barely 30 minutes after Dunbar came in with that record-breaking score, the 2009 US Amateur Open Champion – who beat Danny Lee’s record to become the youngest winner of the famous event – also signed for a 62.
In contrast to Dunbar, An did not card a single bogey as he shot nine birdies on the way to his lowest round as a professional.“I really like this course but it’s actually fairly hard,” said the 21 year old. “There are some hard holes. It is pretty long and gets pretty tough if you don’t drive it very well. I missed the cut last year but this year I guess it suits me better.
“The weather definitely helps, it’s a lot better than last year. It was raining this morning, but it’s nice now. There was no wind, it was calm and just a little rain but a lot better than last year, I think that helps.
“I was never thinking about 59 to be honest. I fired well on the front nine but the back nine is definitely harder. I just wanted to make par on the harder holes – 11 and 12 are the hardest - just get through those holes and see what happens.”Sebi Garcia was a shot back after carding an eight under par 63 while there were seven players three shots further back on six under par, including former Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Andrea Pavan.