Sport Golf

Sunday 18 March 2018

Dunne takes distinguished route to Hoylake

Paul Dunne
Paul Dunne

Dermot Gilleece

Some Hoylake challengers competed in the Scottish Open while others spent last week simply practising. But Paul Dunne was in Finland doing what elite amateurs do: competing for his country in the European Men’s Amateur Team Championship.

Though Rory McIlroy and Alan Dunbar have been amateur competitors in recent years, the 21-year-old member of Greystones gained the rare distinction of actually qualifying for The Open against professional opponents. McIlroy made the field at Carnoustie in 2007 as a reward for victory in the International European Amateur, while Dunbar was at Royal Lytham two years ago as the reigning British Amateur champion.

Dunne took a very different route. Buoyed by the confidence gained from college golf with the University of Alabama, he entered Final Qualifying at Woburn on July 1. As it happened, his challenge almost ended before it began when he arrived on the 10th tee, his first, only a minute before his starting time.

Unruffled, he proceeded to card back-to-back 67s to lead the qualifiers on 10-under par. This came only a matter of days after he had played for the victorious European team in the Palmer Cup matches against the US at Walton Heath the previous weekend. Small wonder he described it as “an incredible couple of days.”

The only comparable achievement by an Irish player in recent years was by Killarney’s Danny Sugrue for the 2004 Open at Royal Troon. Pursuing his craft as a struggling, young professional on the European Challenge Tour where he won the princely sum of €817 for the whole of 2003, Sugrue proceeded to card rounds of 67 and 72 to lead the qualifiers at Glasgow Gailes.

It meant prize money of £1,750 and he received a further £2,000 for actually competing in The Open. In the event, he missed the cut after creditable rounds of 74, 74 had tied him with such notables as Sergio Garcia and John Daly. Dunbar also missed the cut after rounds of 75 and 71.

Dunne will leave his homeward-bound amateur colleagues in Stockholm today for a flight to Manchester. Then comes first sight of Hoylake in a practice round tomorrow with his father, Collie, on his bag for the week.

Interestingly, Joe Carr was leading amateur in The Open at Hoylake in 1956 and again at Royal Lytham in 1958. McIlroy has been the most successful in recent years, earning the silver medal in 2007 when rounds of 68, 76, 73 and 72 brought a share of 42nd place behind Pádraig Harrington.

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