Wednesday 28 June 2017

Birthday boy Dunne avails of full Tour membership

Paul Dunne playing his practice round in South Africa
Paul Dunne playing his practice round in South Africa
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Put the 'Dunne' into 'Dunhill' and watch this space.

That's what Paul Dunne will be hoping as he embarks on his first campaign as a card-carrying member of the European Tour.

The event is the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Club in South Africa, the first of the 45 tournaments on the Tour's 2015-2016 schedule.

Following his gritty performance in the final stage of the Tour School in Spain last week, the Greystones golfer has wasted no time in getting into action.

If Dunne is looking for omens, there is a neat symmetrical alignment of coincidence which suggests he could have a good week.

His first official European Tour event as a pro was in the Alfred Dunhill Links championship in Scotland last month where he made a spectacular start with a 64 in the first round which included a hole in one.

Dunhill are the tournament backers this week and, just for good measure, it's Paul Dunne's 23rd birthday today.

The Greystones golfer will leave the celebrations aside as he concentrates on getting down to business in this €1.5 million event.

It is far from the biggest prize money available on the circuit but a strong representation from South Africa ensures that this will be a hotly-contested four days.

Major champions Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open Championship), and Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters) along with defending champion Branden Grace headline the home challenge.

Dunne's first goal will be to make the cut, something he has achieved in his three previous outings via invitations at the Dunhill Links, the British Masters and Portugal Masters.

Tour School, however, was the highest priority.

Dunne came through stage one safely, but was on the verge of elimination in stage two.

Credit to him, he dug deep to survive a six-hole play-off to gain entry into the final stage.

Once there, he again fought hard at PGA Catalunya, first to make the cut after four rounds, and again to get into the top 25 who earned their coveted Tour cards. Dunne is one of 21 of those Q-School graduates at Leopard Creek this week, along with 12 players who qualified for full Tour cards from the Challenge Tour.

Ireland is also represented by Kevin Phelan and Tour veteran Peter Lawrie.

Down Under, Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke plays in the Australian Open at Rosebery, New South Wales, and hopes to see an improvement in his performance.

Clarke, who finished tied second in a MENA (Middle East & North Africa) Tour event recently, said: "My game is an enduring mystery to be honest. I am encouraged by that runner-up finish a fortnight ago."

Alfred Dunhill Championship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30 & 12.30

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