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Dunbar wins Magners North of Ireland Amateur Championship

By Peter Hutcheon

Rathmore Golf Club is enjoying a second massive celebration in under a month as Alan Dunbar added the Magners North of Ireland Amateur Championship to Graeme McDowell's US Open triumph.

And the 20-year-old's success follows on from clubmate Wayne Telford, who was the defending champion at Royal Portrush this week.

Dunbar triumphed in an all-Ulster final battle with Ballymena's Dermot McElroy who, at 17, was bidding to become the youngest winner in the event's 63-year history.

“I was a bit nervous at the start. It was hard to ignore the expectations on me, but generally I kept my focus,” said Dunbar, who had his father, Paul, on the bag.

“I was the more experienced player and that brought a wee bit of extra pressure. In the past, it was the other way round.

“This is my first matchplay title and it is very special because the North is held on my home courses.

“I got off to a good start, after not playing well in the semi-final against Sean Ryan of Royal Dublin.”

Dunbar came through that match on the final green, whilst McElroy ended the hopes of Banbridge's Connor Doran with a two-and-one win to progress.

The final began in almost gale-force conditions and the first hole was halved in par.

Dunbar took the lead with a birdie four at the second and then doubled his advantage at the next hole with another birdie, putting for an excellent two from just off the green.

The next three holes were shared in regulation figures before McElroy won his first hole with a superb up-and-down from the hollow at the side of the green.

Three-putt bogeys at the eighth maintained Dunbar's slender advantage.

The ninth was halved in birdies, Dunbar playing a majestic three-wood from 250 yards into the heart of the green to 35 feet.

McElroy had found trouble off the tee, but recovered with an equally good approach before sinking a 20-foot putt.

It was Dunbar's turn to find trouble at the par-five 10th, driving into bushes and taking a penalty drop before conceding.

The 12th was halved in pars, before Dunbar turned the screw with wins in par at 13 and 14 to go two-up again.

Bogeys followed at the next before Dunbar again found the rough right of the 16th, but he recovered to half the hole.

Unfortunately for McElroy, the teenager snap-hooked his drive at 17 and could only move it forward four feet, to hand Dunbar victory.

For the Rathmore man it was celebration time, just yards away from his clubhouse door.

And he has a busy time in prospect in the next few weeks with the senior interpros in Ballinarobe next week, followed by the Irish Open in Killarney and then the European, in Finland.

“I'm delighted to receive an invitation for the Irish Open,” he said.

“I've also never played Killarney before and I'll have a practice round there with Darren Clarke,” Dunbar added.

“It should be a great experience.”

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