Saturday 24 February 2018

Paul is Master of his destiny

Paul Dunne with the British Masters trophy
Paul Dunne with the British Masters trophy
Paul Dunne is congratulated by Shane Lowry
Paul in June with St Laurence’s then vice-principal Carol Mooney and the yearbook in which he promised to become a pro golfer

Mary Fogarty

Paul Dunne from Greystones was in sixth class at St Laurence's, and just 12 years old, when he firmly set his mind towards becoming a professional golfer.

Twelve years later, he fired seven birdies and an eagle to win the British Masters in Newcastle, with Rory McIlroy hot on his heels.

'The whole family, every single one of us, are so proud,' said Paul's dad Colum yesterday (Tuesday).

His parents Colum and Michelle and his sister and brother, Alison and David, are overjoyed at the 24-year-old's success.

'He's put in a huge amount of work,' said Colum. 'You're always nervous watching, obviously you want him to do his best. It can indeed be nerve racking but you have to take a step back and enjoy it. Any parent would be proud to see their child competing. To win is vindication for him for all the time and effort put in.'

Colum said that Paul seemed confident. 'We would have spoken to him during the week. He was very comfortable. He seemed very assured on the final day. He's been working to get to a stage to put himself in the position to, on the final day, go out and win the tournament.'

Mental preparation was a large part of Paul's game, his dad said. 'He was in a position to go after the win, rather than hoping someone else would lose. That doesn't happen overnight.'

'My game has been improving and I have definitely been improving mentally,' Dunne told RTE on Sunday. 'I have put myself in positions, not only to win, but last year when I was fighting for a card every Sunday, it was very important in terms of climbing leaderboards.

'I learned a lot in the last year and that has really helped me, but no matter how much you learn, and how much you tell yourself you have learned, until you do it, it's different. Once you do it, no one can take it away from you, so it means everything.'

Members of the Dunne family gathered together to watch the golf at the weekend and the atmosphere was fantastic. His brother David is a sports nutritionist and was there with him.

It's back to business for Paul this week, as he plays in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrew's. Colum and Michelle will go over there at the weekend to see him play.

He had some media obligations on Sunday, so some time passed before Paul's family got to speak to him. He was in a car with Shane Lowry and his caddy, Bray native Darren Reynold.

'We got to speak to him a couple of hours after the win when he was heading to Scotland. Obviously he was delighted. He's been working towards this. That's all the preparation and hard work.'

Runner-up on the day was Rory McIlroy. 'To have him chasing you is certainly a victory you could relish,' said Colum. 'Paul said it was like a dream. In other ways, you know when he's chasing you down you can't stop. You have to be aggressive with the game and make birdies. Another player might not have the same level of shot making as McIlroy. It was pretty clear what he had to do.'

Colum said that the credit for Paul's work ethic and focus must go to his mother. He added that the three siblings are very close and look out for each other.

Paul is a former pupil of St Laurence's and current Principal Carol Mooney said that the golfer always showed huge potential.

'He was very bright, very determined, and anything he set his mind to he did really well, to the point of excellence.

'He could have excelled at any sport and he chose golf,' she said. 'He was just 12 when he stated he wanted to be a professional golfer. It's stunning to see that brought to fruition.'

Ms Mooney said that to celebrate the school's 40th anniversary this year Paul paid a visit and took a photo with every one of the junior infants. 'He's a great chap. Very personable, very giving and very grounded. We are so proud of him.

'If Paul makes up his mind he's going to do something, he doesn't do it half-heartedly. He has ability in spades, but hard work is the key to a lot of his success.'

Bray native Darren Reynolds works alongside Paul as his caddy. He and some other Irish caddies, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington enjoyed an evening of celebration some hours after the stunning victory on Sunday.

'We were fairly tired after the day itself. There was a great atmosphere and we were very lucky with the weather,' said Charnwood man Darren.

'Paul played so well,' said Darren, reflecting on the day's golf. 'His playing was consistent and he had good finishes.'

Shane Lowry was one of the first to congratulate Paul. 'Shane is a class guy,' said Darren. 'That was a nice moment. He's a very talented player.'

'I've never seen anything like it before,' said Darren. 'He was being pushed by Rory, then to shoot nine under and pull of his first win was amazing. It was unbelievable golf. It was great to be there to witness and be a part of it. Hopefully it's the first of many.'

Darren said that there have been countless messages from home congratulating the player on his success. 'The phone hasn't stopped with texts, instagram, messages. It's hard to get back to everyone but we will.'

Vice-Captain of Greystones Golf Club Barry Massey said that Paul's achievement is a great boost for the club and the town. He said that on Sunday in Newcastle, 'a superstar was born' in Paul, who picked up a cheque for €540,000 in the process.

'Paul's birdie-birdie finish was nothing short of sensational as he shot a final round of 61 to hold off a charge from former world number one Rory McIlroy,' said Barry. Barry couldn't watch it and took to the garden after Paul drove the ball into the trees on the 12th. 'It was only when my phone started beeping that I ventured inside to watch the replay.' Barry was junior organiser when Paul joined Greystones Golf Club at the age of 10. He had a 'tennis swing' and a ropey grip, but a strong work ethic. He won the Connaught Boys under-15 championship in 2007, followed by Ulster Boys and Wicklow Boys. A year later he was an Ireland under-16 international; a member of the European Boys Amateur Championship, Boys Home International, Irish Boys champion and he retained his Wicklow Boys crown.

In 2009 he retained his Irish Boys crown, the first player ever to achieve this. The following year he made his debut on the Irish senior team and played on the boys' and youths' team. He also became Irish Youth champion, only the second Greystones player to win that championship, the other being Alan Murray, his caddy in the Open at St Andrews. The following year he went to study at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Alan Murray had just taken up a position on the golf coaching staff there and was a big influence on his decision to go there.

He returned to Ireland to win the 2013 East of Ireland at Baltray. After 118 years, Greystones finally had a major winner. Then came his exploits at the British Open in 2015. He followed that by helping the GB&I Walker Cup team defeat the USA at St Anne's in Blackpool. A day later he turned professional and set about winning his European tour card. After 11 gruelling rounds Paul was the only member of that successful Walker Cup team to win a card. By retaining his card on the final day of the European tour last year, it got him into the Rolex Series and gave him the chance to plan his programme for 2017. His target for this year was to try to win a tournament and get into the top 30 in the Race to Dubai. He came close in the Trophy Hassan in Morocco when he was beaten in a play off by Edoardo Molinari. His caddy that week was Holmes, who stepped in for the injured Darren Reynolds. Holmes travelled to Close House with Paul this week as his coach after working with him on the range in Greystones the previous week.

'Karl texted a few friends at the club last Wednesday to tell them to put their house on Dunner making the cut. He was right and the bookies in Greystones may be feeling the pinch,' said Barry. This win moves Paul up to 12th in the Race to Dubai. It guarantees him qualification for the British Open next year and it could also mean qualification for the PGA major as well as two-year European Tour exemption.

Wicklow People

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