street. Andrews, Scotland – It was the match everyone wanted to see a few weeks ago at the US Amateur Championships, just a few rounds ago: World No. 1 Gordon Sargent vs. Nick Dunlap, the most famous amateur on the planet. Dunlap, of course, beat Sargent at Cherry Hills, winning their first round meeting, 2-1, and later that evening Sargent sent Dunlap a long text.
The gist of it: You are the best player in the world right now, and you proved it today. Go win this thing.
“If I’m going to lose to someone, I want to lose to the best player on the field,” Sargent said. “After I lost, I felt he was the best player, and I wanted him to know that too.”
Dunlap, who went on to lift the Havemeyer Trophy, added: “It was really cool to see that, to play and beat him, it gave me a lot of momentum and confidence. I felt if I could beat him, I could beat anyone.”
Fast forward to Saturday night in St Andrews, and with the USA trailing Great Britain and Ireland by three points after Day 1 of Round 49.y Walker Cup The American players were a little sad as they returned to their residence for the week, the Old Course Hotel. However, Sargent and Dunlap were unable to remain silent for long as they pressed American captain Mike McCoy to unleash the beast.
All week there had been rumblings about the foursome pairing of Sargent and Dunlap, and with the Visitors needing to return, their thought process was this:
Sargent, still No. 1 in the world, was up 2-0 this week as he beat the old track one driver after another.
Dunlap was 0-2 and had just been attacked individually by England’s John Gough, but perhaps a team-up with Sargent could reinvigorate the US amateur champion, who also captured the Northeast, North and South amateurs this summer.
It would be hard to beat two of the world’s most decorated golfers.
“I think we have the mindset that if we stick together, we don’t lose,” Sargent said.
And so McCoy pulled the trigger, fielding his two stars in the second of their four matches, where Sargent and Dunlap will take on Scottish pair Callum Scott and 16-year-old Connor Graham, who knocked out the formidable duo Caleb. Surratt and Ben James on Saturday morning.
The pairing has been over a decade in the making.
Sargent and Dunlap grew up about 20 minutes away from each other in Birmingham, Alabama, but other than a few All-American Junior and Junior Championships each year, they didn’t see each other much during middle school and high school. Sargent, a year his senior, belonged to Shoal Creek and Country Club in Birmingham, the latter being the home course of his high school, the juggernaut Mountain Brook. Dunlap played at Greystone and went out with a lot of the older members, including his mentor and now caddy, former KFT pro Jeff Curl.
“They were never really close friends because they lived on different sides of town and went to different schools, but they were always in competition with each other and always respected each other,” Sargent’s father, Seth, said.
Before becoming the tallest player in amateur golf, Sargent was a little kid with a big game. Dunlap, on the other hand, was a big kid with a big game.
“Nick was a giant, one foot taller than everyone else,” said Vanderbilt coach Scott Limbaugh, who a decade ago was an assistant to Jay Sewell at Alabama. “Nick was the guy who shot 32 people. And Gordon was still 4 feet tall.”
The Dunlaps briefly moved to Greenville, South Carolina, right before Nick’s freshman year of high school and shortly after Dunlap beat Sargent as the 2018 Alabama Junior Player of the Year. Three years later, Dunlap, who was homeschooled after his family moved back, won. On to Alabama (about an hour and a half north in Huntsville), for the US Junior Championships.
But last season, when Dunlap suffered left wrist tendinitis his freshman season at Alabama, Sargent’s legend began to soar. On the heels of winning the NCAA Championship as a freshman at Vanderbilt, Sargent became a household name after being invited to and playing in the Masters Tournament, and his impressive length wowed the likes of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka – and everyone else for that matter – on a practice run.
Sargent is quickly being branded as the next big thing, and later this year he will officially earn his PGA Tour card through PGA Tour University Accelerated. He’s already got an agent, Excel, the same company that represents Tiger Woods. Titleist and FootJoy are among its NIL partners.
Now, it’s Dunlap’s turn to do it all – and Sargent will be one of his greatest resources as the two have grown closer in recent months as they prepare for the Walker Cup. A week before the American Amateur, Sargent, Dunlap, Surratt and David Ford spent a few days together at Castle Pines, playing a few matches and bonding.
“I feel like we kind of grew up comparing each other a bit, because we’re from the same hometown and we go to two slightly different SEC schools,” Dunlap said last Thursday. “But it’s been really nice to get to know him as more than just the player he is. He’s obviously a hell of a player. The accolades stand by themselves. But like I said, it’s been really fun getting to know him…and I look forward to playing more golf.” with him.
Sewell added, “It’s good to see them rekindle as friends. They’ll have a 20-year career together on the PGA Tour, just like Jordan (Speth) and Justin (Thomas).”
Dunlap couldn’t remember if he and Sargent had ever been on the same team, let alone a duo – perhaps the AJGA Wyndham Cup – but on a Sunday morning in St Andrews, they both got their wish. Dunlap thinks he played his best golf among the entire US Amateur against Sargent, and all it takes is a duo reunion to get Dunlap out of his little funk.
“It puts pressure when you’re both players in the team that the captain counts on, but it also gives us confidence just knowing that if we go out and play our game we’ll be fine,” Sargent said.
Dunlap rolled in a birdie putt at fourth to give the Americans a one-run lead before Sargent putt a 30-foot putt over Graham’s 35-foot birdie on fourth. Amid a crazy wind, the dynamic American duo led by 2 for most of the match, with the decisive moment coming at par 3 11 exposedyas Dunlap converted a 7-foot tickler to save the tie.
A few off-putting holes, at par 13 and 15, allowed GB&I to tie things up – and Dunlap missed a short putt to birdie to halve the par-5 14y —but as they have done countless times in the sport, Sargent and Dunlap held on.
Birding two of the final three holes – all three holes capped by Sargent’s putts – gave Sargent and Dunlap the 1-up win and the USA another significant point in what ended up being a 3-1 session to close the gap to one point, 8.5-7.5, with 10. Singles matches on Sunday afternoons.
“You never want to give your opponents chances,” Sargent said, “and I don’t think we really liked the GB&I buzz over the last couple of days, so we decided we didn’t even want to give them a chance.”
“We like it quiet here, nice and peaceful,” Dunlap added.
However, Birmingham was sure to be buzzing.