Tuesday 20 March 2018

Dunne steps up to new level among the world elite

Paul Dunne. Photo: Sportsfile
Paul Dunne. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Paul Dunne steps into elite company as one of 78 players competing in the final World Golf Championship event of the year, the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Everywhere he looks on the practice ground this week, the 24-year-old from Greystones, County Wicklow, can see world-class golfers tuning up for one of the top tournaments on the Tour circuit.

Dustin Johnson, the world number one, will tee it up alongside 2016 HSBC Champions winner Hideki Matsuyama, and Spanish star Jon Rahm, the reigning Dubai Duty Free Irish Open champion.

Major winners Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Henrik Stenson also compete in this no-cut, $9.75 million (€8.29m) event.

Not bad for a young Irishman who this time two years ago looked no further than gaining a Tour card via Q-School.

He made it - just - after a six-hole play-off in stage two, and emerged with his playing rights for 2016.

The game is technically the same, but Dunne's end of October/early November schedule in 2017 is vastly different to that of two years ago.

Shanghai this week; Antalya, Turkey, and Sun City, South Africa in the next two weeks to play $7million Rolex Series tournaments, followed by the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on November 16-19.

Dunne's globe-trotting continues with the Australian Open the week after Dubai.

Hard work and victory in the British Masters has opened doors, and Dunne is walking through them with gratitude and a sense of purpose.

Dunne has learned so much in a relatively short time, especially from the positive comments expressed by fellow players and media observers when he held the joint lead in the Open at St Andrews in 2015.

"Before I played in that Open, I was hopeful that I would make a career out of playing golf, but I wasn't sure.

"I had had a decent amateur career, but I wouldn't say by any stretch of the imagination that I was one of the best amateurs ever.

"I think the biggest thing for me was I got a lot of confidence in knowing I could make a living playing golf.

"And once I knew that, I knew that I could get through Q-School if I just played my own game. I think I kind of built off that.

"I didn't really have expectations that I was going to win loads of tournaments, loads of Majors, all that kind of thing, which a few people said.

"But at the end of the day, the only person's expectations I really care about are my own," said Dunne.

Tee-off time for his WGC debut at Sheshan International Golf Club is 10.10am local time (3.10am Thursday morning, Irish time) alongside Adam Hadwin of Canada and Kyle Stanley (USA).

His former Walker Cup 2015 team-mates Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin join Ruaidhri McGee and Michael Hoey in the Challenge Tour's Ras Al Khaimah 2017 Golf Challenge which starts today.

  • WGC-HSBC Champions, Live, Sky Sports Golf, 3.0am

Irish Independent

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