Dunne stays the course to overcome late Baltray jitters
Greystones' Paul Dunne survived getting less than five hours sleep as well as a vicious attack of back-nine butterflies to chisel out a one-shot victory in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at a sun-kissed County Louth.
A 20-year-old finance student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, he did something that college's most famous student Graeme McDowell could never achieve when he lifted the Lyons Cup after a heart-stopping final day at the storied Baltray links.
Leading by four strokes from Headfort's Brian Casey overnight, the former Irish Boys and Youths champion saw his lead reduced to just two on seven-under with a round to go when he lost a ball on the 18th and shot a morning 72 to Casey's 70.
In the end, he closed with a 73 to Casey's 72 to notch his first senior championship victory by the narrowest of margins on six-under-par 282 as Mullingar's Des Morgan closed with rounds of 69 and 75 to take third on one-over.
The huge crowds thronging the links brought back memories of the East's glory days, when players would play hard and party harder.
Dunne didn't get to sleep until the small hours but that was only because he was kept awake by a thumping birthday bash in the bar as he battled to get some rest in the 'dormy' rooms above.
"The music started about quarter to 11 and woke me up until just after half two," he said.
"Until then I got no sleep. With two rounds left, I wasn't too nervous last night. But I wish I could say the same about the back nine there."
When Casey landed in the bunker on the 16th, taking bogey, Dunne was four clear with two to go.
But he smothered his six-iron tee shot to the par-three 17th, bunkered his pitch and took five to go to the 559-yard 18th just two ahead after Casey had missed from 15 feet for birdie.
Despite driving into the rough, he found the green in three and lagged his 35-foot birdie putt dead. Casey's birdie from six feet was not enough to change the outcome.
A return to the Irish team looks on the cards but Dunne refused to look further ahead than the Irish Close at Connemara this weekend and the following week's British Amateur at Sandwich.
"It's absolutely brilliant," he said. "I always thought if I was going to win one, this was the one because it is stroke play and I like the course and the greens are good.
"It was a little less humid than Alabama, but the weather was as good as I could hope for."
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