TROON, Scotland -- Northern Ireland’s Alan Dunbar and Austria’s Matthias Schwab will contest the 36-hole final in the British Amateur on Saturday at Royal Troon. At stake is the Amateur Championship Trophy, a spot in this year’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, a place in next year's U.S. Open and, traditionally, an invitation to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
The two finalists ended Scotland’s hopes of a first all-Scottish final since 1909. Dunbar defeated Baberton’s Paul Ferrier, while Schwab ended the hopes of local Jack McDonald.
Dunbar is looking to become the first Northern Irish player to win since Michael Hoey at Prestwick in 2001 and Schwab can become the first Austrian to lift the Amateur Championship trophy ever.
Dunbar raced to a two-hole lead over Ferrier after playing Royal Troon’s front nine in 3-under 33. However, consecutive double-bogey 6s at 10 and 11 brought the match back to all square. Dunbar turned the contest around by winning the 12th with a birdie and 13th with a par.
“I played well on the front nine and holed a few putts, but 10 and 11 were shockers,” Dunbar said. “The momentum was with him after those two holes so to win 12 and 13 was important.”
The 23-year-old hails from Portrush, and attended the Darren Clarke Foundation. Dunbar spent 12 months on the program last year, and had the chance to play with Clarke at Royal Portrush in January.
“He’s around a lot now that he lives back in Portrush so I see him a bit, and it was great to play with him,” Dunbar said.
Dunbar helped Great Britain & Ireland win last year’s Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. He won two out of three matches to help defeat the United States 14-12.
Patience has been the key to reaching the final.
“I’m quite a calm guy. I’ve got a lot of patience,” he said.
Ferrier has just graduated from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a degree in psychology. He will rue the bogey he made at 15 to lose the hole after winning the 14th to get back to one down. Ferrier left Royal Troon with his head held high, despite not making the final.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute,” Ferrier said. “I let it slip at 15 against Alan. Two down with three to play is always leaving you with a lot of work to do. I can take a lot from this heading into regional qualifying for the Open Championship at Goswick on Monday.”
Schwab is six years Dunbar’s junior at age 17. He won the 2010 Austrian Amateur and has made the cut in the last two Austrian Opens on the European Tour.
He faced a tight match against McDonald. The 19-year-old Scot from nearby Kilmarnock (Barassie) had much of the support.
McDonald was two down after 11 holes but fought back to square the match at the 15th. However, Schwab made a birdie on the par-5 16th to go one up. The match ended when McDonald drove into the fairway bunker at the 18th and failed to make par.
“It was tight match,” said McDonald an R&A Scholar at Stirling University studying applied mathematics. “I’m proud of the way I stayed composed this week, especially in the match play stages. I never got ahead of myself all week. It’s been a big step up for me.”
Schwab has also made a big step up this week. He has legendary German coach Willie Hoffman to thank. Hoffman coached Bernhard Langer to two Masters titles, and made him one of world’s best players.
“I drive to Munich once every two months to see him, and the rest of the time I send him videos,” Schwab said.
He made the cut on the mark of 3-over 145, but has made the most of the match-play stages.
“There was a lot of nail biting about qualifying, so I was just happy to make it into the match play stages,” he said. “I’m happy to be in the final. I know there are big prizes that go with winning but I’m not going to think of those.”
Schwab comes from a sporting family. His father Andreas participated in the 1976 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, and came fourth in the two-man Austrian Bobsleigh team. Matthias has a chance to get one over on dad here at Royal Troon. Besides the Amateur Championship trophy, the winner gets a gold medal.
Friday morning quarterfinals:
Paul Ferrier, Baberton, def. Matthew Stieger, Australia, 4&3
Alan Dunbar, Rathmore, def. Robert Karlsson, Sweden, 3&2
Matthias Schwab, Austria, def. Jacobo Pastor, Spain, 4&3
Jack McDonald, Kilmarnock (Barassie), def. Toby Tree, Worthing, 19th hole
Friday afternoon semifinals:
Alan Dunbar, Rathmore, def. Paul Ferrier, Baberton, 3&2
Matthias Schwab, Austria, def. Jack McDonald, Kilmarnock (Barassie), 2 holes