Sunday 25 February 2018

Dunhill delight for Dunne and 'Shades' star

Former German footballer Michael Ballack plays his second shot to the second hole during the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Former German footballer Michael Ballack plays his second shot to the second hole during the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

William S Callahan

Celebrities and professionals came together on three top-class Scottish links courses yesterday for the start of the annual jamboree that is the Alfred Dunhill Links championship.

The tournament, now in its 15th year, is an opportunity for entertainment, sporting and business celebrities to mix with the big boys in a serious event - so serious that the prize fund is $5m (€4.78m) and there is a stack of world ranking and European Ryder Cup points at stake.

And whatever about the Tour stars taking the competition seriously, the celebs also come prepared for battle and do their best to bring their 'A' game.

But even the most competitive amateurs are light years away in proficiency and talent from the professionals.

That much was evident from viewing some of the swings and foibles of the celebs playing at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

Compared with the silky swings of even the lower-ranked professionals, the amateurs are playing a different and vastly inferior game.

That did not prevent Jamie Dornan, star of blockbuster 'Fifty Shades of Grey', from generating the memory of a lifetime when he holed a monster putt for an eagle two on the 18th hole at the Old Course in St Andrews.

Dornan hails from Holywood, County Down, as does Rory McIlroy.

He played with American pro Peter Uihlein in the Team Championship, and said: "That's up there as one of the most amazing feelings of my life.

"Whatever your standard, you have your moments in golf when you play a great shot, but it's usually on some dirt track of a course.

"To do that here at St Andrews, on the 18th, well, that's the closest I am going to get to winning the Open."


At the business end of the tournament, the glory of the day belonged to Ireland's Paul Dunne, England's Jimmy Mullen and Kristoffer Broberg of Sweden who each shot 64, eight under par, for the joint lead.

Walker Cup team-mates Dunne and Mullen, both playing in their first European Tour event as professionals, compiled their scores at Kingsbarns, while Broberg's 64 came at St Andrews.

Dunne's round included an ace at the 205-yard 15th, his sixth hole, using a five-iron.

"I kind of needed it. I got off to a bit of a ropey start. I was hitting a lot of poor full shots," he said. "My putter was kind of saving me, to be level par playing 15 which was my sixth, and it was nice to get a hole-in-one."

The Greystones native was one of 11 Irish in action yesterday.

Peter Lawrie, who is still chasing his Tour card for 2016, made a positive start with a 67 for five-under par at Kingsbarns.

Graeme McDowell, who had AP McCoy as his partner in the team event, eagled the par-five 12th at Carnoustie en route to a 68.

Damien McGrane, Michael Hoey and Kevin Phelan were all at Kingsbarns and scored 70, 70 and 71 respectively. Gary Hurley, another of the Walker Cup winning team, shot 73 at St Andrews.

Carnoustie, the venue where Padraig Harrington won the 2007 Open championship in a play-off against Sergio Garcia, hosted Darren Clarke, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley and Harrington.


Ryder Cup 2016 captain Clarke was the only one of the quartet under par with a 71. Lowry was on 74, and McGinley and Harrington each finished with a 75.

That was a particular disappointment for Harrington. He had been looking forward to getting back to a course on which he became the first Irishman to win the Open since Fred Daly in 1947.

He told his Facebook followers ahead of the event: "This week I am playing in one of my favourite tournaments of the year, the Dunhill Links Championship.

"I look forward to this week every year as we play three great courses in a format that I love.

"As always I am playing with JP (McManus) - we have won it twice and would like nothing more than to add a third title."

Lowry was returning to action after a six week break following the US PGA Championship.

Alfred Dunhill Links C'ship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 1.00pm

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