Monday 18 December 2017

Dunne setting high standard for young Irish challengers

Dunne also has that precious commodity on Tour: the security of knowing he can tee it up for 2017-18. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Dunne also has that precious commodity on Tour: the security of knowing he can tee it up for 2017-18. Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Paul Dunne is the standard bearer for young Irish hopefuls chasing a career on the European Tour.

Dunne's near-miss in the King Hassan II tournament last Sunday earned the Greystones man €277,777 and sealed his Tour card for 2018.

He was gutted to lose in the play-off to Italy's Edoardo Molinari, but the experience of leading the field into the final day and battling it out into 'extra-time' will stand to him in the future.

Dunne also has that precious commodity on Tour: the security of knowing he can tee it up for 2017-18.

Starting today, in the Shenzhen International at Genzon Golf Club near Hong Kong, Dunne can go out and focus solely on his game.

Superstars

It's not that he is set for life, or that he has been elevated into the ranks of superstars. Golf is too fickle a sport for that sort of thinking, and level-headed Dunne would never succumb delusions of grandeur.

He is, however, blessed with an enviable situation at this early stage of his professional career - from the viewpoint of Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin and Jack Hume.

That quartet all played on that victorious Walker Cup team with Dunne in September 2015.

Hume was the last of them to turn pro, waiting until October 2016 to depart the GUI scene.

Today, while Dunne competes in the €2.63m event in China - €437,017 to the winner - all but Hume tee it up in the Turkish Airlines Challenge in Belek.

The total prize fund in Turkey is €200,000, less than a tenth of that available on the main Tour event.

Money is not so important right now. What counts, particularly for the young Irishmen - who are joined by Chris Selfridge, Ruaidhri McGee, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin in Turkey - is competitive action.

Sharvin (24) appreciates every opportunity to play on the Challenge Tour, where a top-15 place in the rankings at the end of the campaign qualifies for a European Tour card.

This is only the second event of the season, following the Barclays Kenya Open last month.

Sharvin, playing in his second season as a pro, gained a top-20 spot in Kenya and has set his sights high.

"I have a couple of goals. I want to try to win at least one event and then, obviously, get into that top 15 and get onto the European Tour," he said.

"I definitely feel I'm ready to take that step and move to the next level."

Tour veterans Hoey, Alvaro Quiros and ex-Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson have been at that top level, and now seek to restore themselves to former glories via the secondary Tour.

Hoey, winner of five European Tour titles, last played the Challenge Tour in 2005.

The Northern Irishman lost his card last season, making only six cuts in 28 tournaments, but is back at the ripe old age of 38, feeling revitalised.

Enthusiastic

"I'm just really enjoying playing golf and I'm probably more enthusiastic now than I've ever been," he said.

"In the past I've always been a bit confused about my swing but now I understand it more, and my putting, so I'm not burnt out at all.

"I might look my age but I don't feel it - I'm forever 17 on Tour."

Meanwhile Graeme McDowell passed up an invitation to Rory McIlroy's wedding because of a clash with the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio.

McDowell had made a commitment to the tournament and will miss the festivities at Ashford Castle.

He is joined in the field by Waterford's Seamus Power.

Shenzhen International

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.30am

Valero Texas Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30pm

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