ALAN Dunbar’s Masters experience may not have panned out as he would have liked, but he certainly won’t forget it.
Despite failing to make the cut at Augusta National it signalled a new chapter in the Rathmore man’s career as brought down the curtain on his time as an amateur.
Dunbar toiled on day one at the world famous course carding a disastrous 83 on Thursday, when he bogeyed seven of the first eight holes and double-bogeyed the other, but he fought back on Friday with a respectable 77 for a two-day 160 that left him 16-over and 12 shots below the cut line but with his self-esteem restored.
Speaking after finishing on Friday the 22-year-old said: “It was a better day for me in the second round. I just got off to a better start. The nerves were still there on the first tee, I was a wee bit anxious teeing off after what happened to me on the first day.
“But as I say I got off to a good start, I had six good pars because I put the ball in the right places. I had a couple of chances for birdies too. But I made bogies on seven and nine and lost a wee bit of momentum after that.
“I made a couple more at the start of the back nine, but I managed to pull it around and I was pleased to finish with a few pars.
“I enjoyed it more on the second round, but in saying that I enjoyed the back nine on Day One. I know people say you should be enjoying it because it’s the Masters, but it’s hard to enjoy it when you’re bogeying every hole.
“Overall though I’ve enjoyed it and hopefully I’ll be back to play it again some day.”
Dunbar will cherish his Masters experience though. He will take home a number of Masters shirts, commemorative flags and so on he purchased for family and friends, along with the dinner menu from the Amateur’s Dinner on Monday night and his Masters Player’s badge.
“I’ll remember the whole week for a long time to come as it was a great week,” said Dunbar.
“I’ve a lot of good memories from the trip. It was great to have my mate Fionn over and caddying in the Par 3 tournament, it was great watching him play the ninth, I know he really enjoyed it.”
So now the local lad follows in Graeme McDowell’s footsteps from Rathmore to the professional game and he has a busy schedule lined up.
“I know my score this week maybe doesn’t reflect my golf, but it’s the Masters and it is difficult first time out,” he said.
“I’ve turned pro know and my first event will be the Challenge Tour event in Madrid on Wednesday week. I’ll get seven invites on the main European Tour and I’ll do some Challenge Tour events too, I think there’s one being held back home.
“I also hope to play in a couple of PGA events too so I have a busy schedule coming up.
“It’s exciting and it was a fantastic way to end my amateur career by playing at Augusta.”
He will take his first steps as a professional in the Euro 160,000 Challenge de Madrid starting on April 24th at the El Encin Golf Hotel course in the Spanish capital.
The reigning British Amateur champion will then have a week off before teeing-up in the Maderia Islands Open and before his first full European Tour invitation in contesting the Nordea Masters in Stockholm commencing on May 30th.
Former Masters champion, Trevor Immelman has told Dunbar to ‘practice hard’ as he moves into the pro ranks.
“I can remember when I made my amateur debut here in 1999 and playing with Gary Player and Steve Stricker the first two days, and only just managing to make the cut right on the number,” said Immelman.
“But I really felt for Alan on Thursday because he had a really brutal start bogeying the first and then taking triple at the second, and you don’t want to wish that on anybody.
“You could see he looked uncomfortable and not very happy but all credit to him as he played the back nine yesterday very solid, and he played a little better today.
“But he just seemed to be really struggling with the snap hook and that’s not ideal.
“And having only just learned he’s now turning pro my only advice to him is to practice hard.”