Sport Golf

Saturday 16 December 2017

No bunker mentality for our latest golfing hero

ON COURSE: Paul Dunne watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, on Friday
ON COURSE: Paul Dunne watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, on Friday

Dermot Gilleece

For 36 wind-swept holes in the 144th Open Championship, a young Irish amateur has matched the much-lauded achievement of no less a figure than Tiger Woods on his victory march of 2000 at St Andrews.

And 22-year-old Paul Dunne has taken it all confidently in his stride.

The native of Greystones, who recently completed a degree in investment finance at the University of Alabama (UAB), has negotiated two rounds on the Old Course without visiting any of its notorious 112 bunkers.

It will be recalled that Woods famously extended that sand-free stretch to 72 holes, 15 years ago.

"I wouldn't say I've been perfect in how I avoided them; I got a couple of lucky breaks here and there," said the Wicklow player.

"It will be great if I can stay out of them for the next two rounds."

Dunne, whose father Collie was a prominent player with Greystones Rugby Club, has travelled the same route as Graeme McDowell in his golfing development. McDowell was also a prominent member of the golf squad at UAB before embarking on a professional career in 2002.

When Dunne qualified for the Open at Hoylake last year, his father caddied for him. This time, his bagman is Alan Murray, another former Greystones member who has been head golf coach at UAB since 2013.

Aiming for a professional career, starting this autumn, the player has shown remarkable maturity in his progress so far at the Home of Golf. Just as Jack Nicklaus famously did, he sets himself a target score for each round and then commits himself to achieving it. As in, a 69 first round when his target was 70, and a second-round 69 on Friday when again he had aimed for a 70.

A relatively slight frame of 5ft 8ins and 11st 6lbs delivers remarkable power, as reflected in average drives of around 290 yards, which is well up to the standard of a modern, tournament professional.

And he was yesterday in august company on the leaderboard at St Andrews, sharing tenth place with two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, former world number-one Luke Donald, former US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, and the gifted Japanese Hideki Matsuyama.

Noted for his tireless application to practice, Dunne is aiming to become only the third Irishman to capture the silver medal as leading amateur in the Open. Joe Carr did so in 1956 and 1958 and Rory McIlroy won it in 2007 at Carnoustie, where Padraig Harrington was crowned champion.

Sunday Independent

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