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Only Tiger Woods has done what Nick Dunlap can achieve at U.S. Amateur

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — Anytime your name is mentioned with Tiger Woods in the world of golf, you must be doing something right.

Nick Dunlap has a chance to achieve something only Woods has done Sunday in the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club. Win both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur.

Woods is the only male amateur to win the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur. He won three U.S. Juniors from 1991-93 and then three straight U.S. Amateurs from 1994-96.

Dunlap won the U.S. Junior in 2021, and on Sunday, he faces Ohio State graduate student Neal Shipley in the 36-hole championship match with a chance to be mentioned in the same breath as Tiger.

U.S. Amateur: Photos from Cherry Hills

“It’s pretty good,” Dunlap said of possibly matching Woods. “It would be pretty cool company. It’s something that’s been a goal of mine for a long, long time. It’s the same thing, 36 holes; it’s a marathon tomorrow. It’s a lot of golf.”

Tiger Woods kisses the U.S. Amateur trophy after winning an unprecedented third U.S. Amateur championship, Sunday, Aug. 25, 1996, at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore. Woods won the title on the 38th hole.

Although Dunlap, a rising sophomore at Alabama, would be the second to do it on the men’s side, eight women have pulled off the USGA double, most recently Rose Zhang. And she is the only one to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur (2020) before the U.S. Girls’ Junior (2021).

Dunlap’s run to the championship should be no surprise. He has been the best male amateur this summer. He won twice, at the Northeast Amateur and North & South Amateur. He is 29-2 in match play since July 2021.

His partnership with Jeff Curl, Dunlap’s 44-year-old caddie who is a former pro, is another reason for Dunlap’s dominance. Curl was on the bag for his U.S. Junior win, too.

Alabama coach Jay Seawell said he’s not surprised by Dunlap’s run of success. And he has seen his fair share of strong golfers come through the Crimson Tide program, including two-time major winner Justin Thomas and recent Tour winner Lee Hodges.

“He’s as good as anybody that has walked through the doors at Alabama since I’ve been there,” Seawell said. “He’s as talented as anyone we’ve ever had.”

Dunlap’s Alabama teammates will be at Cherry Hills on Sunday for the championship match. So will Seawell, who followed along with his star 19-year-old for the majority of his semifinal match.

Seawell credits Dunlap’s match-play prowess to his killer instinct. He said Dunlap has a perfect mindset for match play, always understanding what he needs to do and what a certain shot or putt can do to his chances to win.

“He has an assassin’s mentality,” Seawell said.

Nick Dunlap chats with NFL quarterback legend Peyton Manning after Dunlap won his match 3 and 2 during the semifinals of the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills C.C. in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Dunlap has also been in control of his emotions all week, never getting too high or too low. Even with a few thousand spectators strolling the grounds of Cherry Hills on Saturday, Dunlap was so locked in he didn’t notice Peyton Manning, a member at the course outside of Denver, standing feet from him during the final holes of his match.

Come Sunday, Dunlap has a chance at history. And he’s in for the long haul.

“There’s going to be ups and downs, there’s going to be changes in momentum, there’s going to be … I don’t know what’s going to be thrown at me, but I’m ready for it,” Dunlap said.

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