Monday 23 April 2018

Champagne flowed even though the Jug couldn't quite make it

Paul Dunne
Paul Dunne
Greystones Golf Club members Mary Lockhart and Jo Cooney cheer on local lad Paul Dunne
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

In the end, the build-up was better than the event.

Long before the final round started, roars from the clubhouse in Greystones Golf Club could be heard in the streets outside.

It was the epicentre of the excitement that had gripped the whole country. An Irishman in his 20s in with a shot of winning the Open - and it wasn't Rory McIlroy. It was one of their own. The local boy, Paul Dunne.

At the start of play, members packed out their clubhouse with the nearby fairways and greens left empty.

"Sssshhhhh, he'll hear us," half-joked one member before Dunne was afforded a respectful silence as he launched the final leg of his quest to become the first amateur to win the British Open since 1930.

Dunne placed his ball and studied it meticulously, ensuring that he set himself up right before getting under way.

Time appeared to stand still before the 22-year-old swung his driver and a number of those watching in the bar had mistaken his composed nature for stage fright.

However, Greystones lady captain Jeanne Thorpe was always certain that Paul would acquit himself well.

"The amount of work he puts into his game is fantastic and everyone around here would know him for that," she said.

"He is very talented. He has a lot of natural flair and is a good sportsman, so he deserves every bit of this."

More than 100 people had gathered in the clubhouse lounge after taking time off work or taking an extended lunch in order to support their local lad.

Before play got under way in Scotland, those watching at home spoke of the memories each had of Paul, all of which involved him honing and fine-tuning his game outside.

As the round progressed, hope was overtaken by reality - but that didn't stop the party.

Cheers were offered too for Dunne's hero Padraig Harrington as he took an early share of the lead.

"If it is not going to be me, then I hope it is him," Harrington had said of Dunne over the weekend.

Some club members had gathered in the car park at 4am yesterday before travelling to St Andrews to catch the final round.

"They just could not miss it," said the club captain Michael Joyce's wife Celine.

She added: "Michael went over on Thursday with some other members, but when Paul did so well he went back over with the club pro and the vice-captain on Sunday."

Despite Paul's slip down the leaderboard as play progressed, there was still acknowledgment and praise offered for each shot taken and pride was very evident inside the sunlit clubhouse.

As he marched up the 18th fairway, flutes of champagne were passed around and the members basked in the joy that their boy from Greystones had brought them over 72 holes at the Open.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News