Alan Dunbar may have flirted with the idea of turning professional after being crowned British Amateur champion last summer, but missing out on a trip to the Masters was never a serious option.
Had he opted to join the paid ranks it would have put paid to his chances of sampling the slopes and undulations of the Augusta National — for the time being at least — and the decision to remain an amateur has probably turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Part of the feeling of happiness after winning the Amateur was that I would be in the Masters,” he says.
“It even went through my head the night before the final and then again on the final green at Troon as I was standing over a putt.
“But thankfully, it didn’t distract me too much.”
The Rathmore man arrives in Georgia woefully short of match practice after picking up an infection in Turkey towards the end of last year which saw him lose two- stone in weight and miss two crucial months golf in the run-up to last year’s European Tour Qualifying School.
“It was only from about mid-December that I started building my strength back up,” he says. “I’m 100 per cent now.
“The frustrating thing is that I haven’t really played much competitive golf, or nearly as much as I would have liked in the last four months.”
Dunbar (pictured) did at least show a return to the form which saw him claim the British title at Royal Troon last year, with a one-hole victory over US Amateur Champion Steven Fox last week to claim the Georgia Cup.
Having McDowell and Rory McIlroy around will be a big help to the Ulsterman — although he has arrived with a posse of friends to keep him company off the course and to support him on it when he tees off tomorrow.
“I have a few of my mates out with me and it will be good to have them around,” he says.
“I don’t know Rory well at all, although I did play a practice round with him before the Irish Open. I know Graeme a lot better and he will be around too.
“It was a bit weird at the Irish Open because there was a lot of attention on me because of my win at the Amateur.
“It wasn’t something I was comfortable with and I was a bit out of my comfort zone.
“I suppose it’s a case of learning how to handle new situations.”
Dunbar faces the same dilemma at the end of this week as he did last summer as he debates whether or not to turn pro and, thereby, have to give up his amateur place at the US Open in June.
“I want to turn professional, but it’s also important to me to play in a lot of events,” he said.
“I don’t want to be a |professional who doesn’t play.”