Lowry and Dunne lay solid foundations for bright 2016
Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne were homeward bound yesterday, returning from the bright sunshine of South Africa and Australia.
The long flights gave each of these graduates of the Golfing Union of Ireland system plenty of time to reflect on a momentous 2015 as they looked forward to relaxing at home for Christmas.
Neither of them finished the calendar year on a high note in terms of scores in their final round of the Nedbank Challenge and the Australian PGA Championship respectively, but that hardly mattered.
For Lowry, a closing 75 at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City translated into a two-over-par total of 290 and joint-25th place in the elite field of 30 competitors.
But what a reward for finishing ahead of only four other players - a cheque for €100,592.
Just €61,719 counted towards Race To Dubai points for the 2015-16 season, which is good enough to get Lowry off to a flying start in 25th place on his first outing of the new campaign.
This has been a tremendous calendar year for the Offaly native, with his breakthrough in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational last August elevating him to a new level of confidence, improved rankings and playing opportunities, particularly in the USA for next year.
Dunne carded a 76, four-over par, in the last round of the Australian PGA at Royal Pines Resort in Queensland, placing him tied-44th and producing just €4,379.
On the face of it, not very impressive, but in the context of a seriously tough course and coming at the end of a tumultuous three months of hard graft, Dunne can be pleased with himself.
He battled hard for his 76 on a day when only six players broke par, and the tournament best total was level-par 288.
Since September he has featured on the winning Walker Cup team, played 258 holes of Tour School's three stages - that includes a six-hole play-off in stage two - and competed in five European Tour events, two of them as a full member.
Dunne missed the cut in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa prior to going to Australia, so his prize money from the Aussie PGA has him at 84th in the European rankings.
He had also performed well enough in the British Masters, Portugal Masters and Dunhill Links on invitations to earn more than €90,000 before clinching his card at Tour School.
While Lowry and Dunne did not feature at the business end of the Nedbank and the Australian PGA, it was joy on the double for Aussie golfers Marc Leishman and Nathan Holman.
Leishman, whose wife Audrey almost died from toxic shock syndrome, a rare but life-threatening bacterial infection, earlier in the year, claimed the Nedbank title at 19-under par, scoring 67 yesterday.
Nathan Holman, 24, earned a maiden Tour win on home soil in the Aussie PGA. Holman, Harold Varner III of the USA, and South Africa's Dylan Frittellie were tied on 288, and the Aussie won with a par on the first play-off hole.
Elsewhere, Bubba Watson shot 66 to close out the Hero World Challenge title at Albany GC in The Bahamas with 25-under par, winning by three shots from runner-up Patrick Reed.
Rickie Fowler was third on 21-under, and 2014 winner Jordan Spieth came fourth, a shot further back.
Watson paid tribute to host Tiger Woods, whose Foundation backs the event, saying: "It means a lot. He's the guy I looked up to. He's the guy I wanted to be like, to be a champion like him when it comes to golf."
The two-time Masters champion joined Paul Casey in setting a new course record 63 on Saturday. Yesterday Justin Rose reduced that by one on his home course with a flawless 62.
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