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6 min read

Greystone’s Nick Dunlap and Jeff Curl Join Forces to Conquer the Golf World

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This past summer, Greystone’s own Nick Dunlap ascended to the pinnacle of amateur golf by winning the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club outside of Denver. In defeating Neal Shipley in the final match by a score of 4-and-3, Nick joined an elite and exclusive group of golfers whose names are etched on the famous Havemeyer Trophy that is awarded each year to the champion.nick-jeff-trophy-1-1

Icons of the game like Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods (3x!), all claimed U.S. Amateur titles, and all leveraged their victories in that championship as a springboard to successful careers on the PGA Tour. Is that the path that Nick will follow as well? 

Time will tell, but for those who have watched his impressive development over the past several years and have seen his meteoric rise up the ranks of amateur golf, there are few who would doubt that he’ll soon be walking the fairways alongside the greatest players in the world.

And actually, it won’t be long. Even before turning pro, he’s been invited to play in several PGA events.

And because his U.S. Amateur title confers with it an exemption into three 2024 PGA majors—the Masters at Augusta National in April, the U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst in June, and the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July—he’ll have the chance to be on golf’s biggest stages and to test his game, and his mettle, against the best under the bright lights of major championship golf.

Becoming a Champion Takes a Team

How can a golfer accomplish so much at such a young age (Nick is still just 19 years old)? Well, having exceptional skill, an uncompromising drive to reach his goals, and a champion’s temperament that is derived from a solid upbringing, are certainly jeff-nick-dapping-upbig parts of the equation. But Nick will tell you that there is one other crucial part of that equation, without which his journey would have been more difficult and its success less certain.

For several years now, Nick has benefitted from the friendship, mentorship, and guidance of fellow Greystone Member, Jeff Curl. Jeff is not only a Member of the Club, but he also happens to be a PGA professional who had more than 100 starts on what is now called the Korn Ferry Tour. And although he no longer plays on tour, he is now an invaluable and indispensable member of Team Dunlap. People may wonder how their paths converged.

How It Began

Almost 10 years ago, Jeff was preparing for a tour event and was hitting balls on the range at Greystone in the pouring rain. Surprisingly, despite the nasty weather, he found that he wasn’t alone on the range. Nearby there was a 10-year-old kid also hitting balls and Jeff was amazed by the youngster’s dedication. He didn’t know then that the boy was the young, pre-teen Nick Dunlap. Over the next few years, their paths continued to cross at the Club, and Jeff began to get more and more involved in Nick’s development. In the process, they began to form a very close bond that has since evolved into an almost father/son-like relationship.jeff-and-nick-in-the-beginning

Jeff knew from the start that there was something special about Nick, a premonition that has since obviously been validated. They have spent a lot of time together, both on and off the course. 

When Nick reached high school, Jeff started to invite him to play in the pro games at Greystone. For someone with aspirations to pursue golf at a higher level, games like these must have had an invaluable impact on the young man. Jeff knew that giving Nick the opportunity to compete against elite-caliber players at such a young age would surely play a key role in enabling him to elevate his game to the next level.

In the natural progression of their deepening relationship, Jeff has also taken on the role of caddie for Nick at many of his most important events, including for his U.S. Amateur win this year and for last year’s U.S. Amateur tournament at Bandon Dunes, for his U.S. Junior Amateur victory, and for the past two U.S. Opens. 

Golf is in Curl’s DNA

At a very young age, Jeff got immersed into the game of golf. His father, Rod Curl, had played on the PGA Tour from 1969 through 1978, where he enjoyed fairly good results, recording one win, three seconds, three thirds, and 46 top-ten finishes. The highlight of his career came in 1974 when he beat Jack Nicklaus by one stroke to win the Colonial National Invitational.

young-jeff-curlBecause his father’s entire life revolved around the game of golf, it naturally means that many of Jeff’s fondest early childhood memories of times spent with his father involved golf in some capacity, often watching him hit balls on the range.

Considering that, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as Jeff followed in his father’s footsteps to pursue a career in professional golf (as did his brother, Rod Jr.).

Jeff turned pro at the age of 21, after playing for 3-and-a-half years at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Initially, like so many aspiring pros who kickstarted their careers on the mini-tour circuit, he competed on the Golden Bear Tour and the Tarheel Tour, before he was able to qualify for the Buy.com Tour (now called the Korn Ferry Tour). He enjoyed a successful 8-year run there until he was forced to call it quits after two serious back-to-back shoulder injuries, torn ankle ligaments, and a cracked vertebrae in his back sidelined him in his prime. 

But, while his game is still sharp, he now channels his decades of experience, energy, and passion into helping younger players with promise, like Nick, to reach their goals.

Interesting side note: Although Nick is the one who has taken the amateur golf world by storm, Greystone is fortunate to have yet another rising junior star coming out of the club, namely high school junior Chase Kyes. Everyone is looking for great things in the future from this young star. He recently made it to Number 10 in the World Amateur Ranking and performed impressively at this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur tournament. His caddie at the event? You guessed it: Jeff Curl.

Final Thoughtsnick-crouching-1

Golf history is replete with examples of great player/caddie partnerships. Jack Nicklaus had Angelo Argeo, Tom Watson had Bruce Edwards, Nick Faldo had Fanny Sunesson, Tiger Woods had Steve Williams, and Phil Mickelson had Jim “Bones” MacKay. What made those collaborations so effective, for so long?

Good caddies don’t just carry their player’s bag, give yardages, and help read putts. All those historic pairs knew that, while golf is essentially an individual sport, the player and the caddie function as a team. Those caddies were also there to instill confidence, provide moral support, and help their players cope with the pressures of the game.

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