PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Nicholas Dunlap won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship on Saturday at The Country Club of North Carolina, beating Cohen Trolio 3 and 2 in the 36-hole final.
The 17-year-old Dunlap, from Huntsville, Alabama, won three straight holes to take control and finished off the 18-year-old Trolio, from West Point, Mississippi, with a par win on the par-3 34th.
“My heart is still beating 100 times fast,” said Dunlap, the first champion from Alabama. “This is unbelievable. In junior golf, this is the big one, and to have my name on it, I can’t even put it into words.”
Dunlap earned a spot next year in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, and next year in the U.S. Amateur. Dunlap and Trolio had already secured spots in the U.S. Amateur next month at Oakmont before the event began.
“It’s my first major,” Dunlap said about the 2022 U.S. Open. “I’m sure I’m probably going to be this nervous or even more. It’s just going to be a learning experience for me, and I’m going to go into it with as much confidence as I can and play my game.”
Trolio, an incoming at LSU freshman, was a semifinalist in the 2019 U.S. Amateur at nearby Pinehurst No. 2. He’s the son of Old Waverly Golf Club head of instruction V.J. Trolio.
“He’s a good player,” Trolio said. “Him making putts isn’t weird. That’s match play. That’s how it goes, momentum swings and such.”
In calm conditions on the tree-lined Dogwood Course, Dunlap tied it with a birdie on the par-5 27th, took the lead with a par on the par-4 28th and made it 2 up with another par win on the par-4 29th.
Trolio missed a chance to take the par-5 30th when he pulled a 4-foot birdie putt left, and Dunlap increased his lead to three with a par win on the par-3 31st.
Trolio won the par-4 33rd with a par after Dunlap drove into the right-side trees, hit out sideways and couldn't get a 15-footer to fall for par. On the par-3 34th, Dunlap hit out of a greenside bunker to 2 feet for a conceded par, and Trolio missed a 10-foot par putt to end the match.
“I’ve won tournaments in the past, but nothing like this,” Dunlap said. “To win this year in Pinehurst on this golf course, I’ll remember it forever.”
In the middle of the match, Dunlap won the par-4 17th with a birdie to take a 2-up lead, and Trolio rallied with birdie wins on the par-5 18th, par-4 20th and par-5 23rd to take a 1-up lead.
Dunlap's caddie, Jeff Curl, is a former professional player and son of Rod Curl, the first Native American to win a PGA Tour event (1974 Colonial).
“More words than I could ever say to thank Jeff," Dunlap said. “He’s been there through all my ups and downs. He’s taught me so many things.”