Gritty Dunne ecstatic after landing precious card
His performance at the British Open was spectacular but Paul Dunne's card-winning performance at the gruelling European Tour Qualifying School may go down as his biggest achievement this year.
The Greystones star, 23 next week, received worldwide acclaim for leading the game's biggest championship into the final day as an amateur.
But, while he got nothing out of St Andrews, bar fame and a tie for 30th, he brilliantly chiselled out his future when he won the 16th of 27 cards at PGA Catalunya Resort.
"It feels good - a lot of stress off my shoulders," said a beaming Dunne, who shot a level-par 72 to tie for 13th on 10-under-par, three strokes inside the crucial top 25 and ties after six exhausting rounds
"Is it a better performance than St Andrews? It's hard to say right now. I played better there than I did here this week but I was happy with how I grinded it out, happy how I stayed patient and managed to keep things together when I wasn't playing my best the last couple of days."
Budding professionals should take note that Dunne played 258 holes over the three stages of Q-School in 32-under-par - 14 rounds plus six extra holes in a play-off to squeak through second stage.
"I finished 10-under at every stage so I was quite consistent," said the Wicklow man, who had to dig deep on the tough Stadium Course but came up trumps alongside 19-year-old Swedish amateur Marcus Kinhult, who also shot 72 to win the 16th card.
"The thing that pleased me most for the whole of Q-School is that I didn't shoot over-par once. It was a steady rise each day."
Looking at the big picture , he added: "It's a great step for me. Turing pro straight away, I skip all the mini tours and the feeder tours. It's something I always dreamed of doing.
"I am just happy to get through it first time and hope I never have to come back. As long as I keep setting new goals, and reach them, hopefully I can keep playing well and never have to visit this place again."
After an early birdie at the second, Dunne found water and double bogeyed the par-three fifth to fall back to nine-under-par.
But he birdied the seventh from 40 feet and the eighth from 10 feet to get back to 11-under-par before holing a slippery 15-footer for a vital par at the ninth that he said calmed him down.
He was three strokes inside the projected mark with nine to play but after a bogey at the 13th, he crucially saved par from 10 feet after bunkering his second to the 14th, fist-pumping his excitement.
"That was key. I knew it was important to get that up and down and birdie 15," said Dunne, who parred the 16th and 17th before a three-putt bogey at the last.
"I felt quite a lot (of pressure) today," added Dunne, who plans to start his rookie season in South Africa and Australia starting next week. "It was a mental grind all day.
"My number one goal since I started back in college in February was to get through Q-School. To achieve something that I've been wanting to do and practising for since February is brilliant."
While there was joy for Dunne, Damien McGrane made early mistakes that led to him chasing birdies and ending up with bogeys, slipping from 18th to tied 54th after a 78 to miss out on his card by five shots.
Confessing he is "bored" by tournament golf, the Kells grinder (44) has no plans to return to the circuit next year bar seeking an invitation for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at The K Club in May.
Simon Thornton closed with a 71 to share 60th on one-under while Kevin Phelan shot 72 to finish a shot further back.
South Africa's Ullrich Van Den Berg shot 68 to take the top card on a countback from Spain's Adrian Otaegui and American Daniel Im as they topped the leaderboard by three strokes on 18-under-par.
Former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari (69) won his card back on the mark thanks to a homeward nine of 32.