Already having had success on some of amateur golf’s biggest stages, Lakeside High School’s Hunter Dunagan is primed for more this year.
As a 14-year-old, Dunagan won the 2012 Press Thornton Future Masters Golf Tournament in Dothan, Ala.; in 2013 he was the Region 2-AAAAA tournament’s low man with an even-par 72 and as a 16-year-old sophomore he leads the Panthers with a scoring average of .56 over par.
“This year he’s been my No. 1,” said Panthers’ head coach Jody Hilley. “He played behind Emmanuel (Kountakis) last year. He’s got the chance to be as good as anything that’s come out of our program.”
Dunagan, who credits much of his success to his swing coach Cara Andreoli, is enjoying the high-school experience.
“It’s been great,” said Dunagan. ”It’s been a lot of fun this year. When it comes to the team it’s about the team and less about your single score. High school is more about pride.”
To win that state championship he covets after the team tied for fourth in 2013, Dunagan knows it will take a total team effort.
“For sure, the whole team’s got to play good,” Dunagan said. “You can’t win state with one good score. You’ve got to have four good scores.”
One of the things he likes about golf, however, is that self-reliance.
“I like the competitiveness, Dunagan said. “The fact that you don’t have to rely on anybody else, it’s all you. You make a mistake, it’s your fault.”
To win the state title, the Panthers will first have to play the regional competition at Bartram Trail, home of the 2014 state championship. While Dunagan says there is a home course advantage, there will be pressure of a sort.
“There’s always going to be pressure in those kinds of situations no matter what,” Dunagan said. “If there’s no pressure, you don’t care. People are expecting you to play well, you just have to go out there and succeed.”
While he picked up his father’s clubs and started playing with them when he was 5 or 6, he didn’t start really playing until after he was done playing baseball when he was 11. He hopes to play golf at the highest levels.
“I see it taking me to the PGA Tour,” Dunagan said, adding, but not right away. “I definitely want to play college golf for a top level DI school. I’m keeping my options open. I want to visit a lot of schools and see what fits.”
After the high school season, Dunagan already has a busy summer, including playing events on the American Junior Golf Association tour and qualifiers for the Junior PGA Championship and the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship with an eye on competing. It has been hard work that has taken him to where he is today.
“You work for what you get out of it,” he said. “If you don’t work at it you’re not going to get anything out of it. It’s kind of like an XY chart.”
Like many others, a dream for Dunagan would be to play in The Masters.
“You definitely want to be that hometown kid that comes back and plays.”