Saturday 18 November 2017

Paul Dunne nets €47,536 with Top 20 finish on pro debut

Paul Dunne of drives off the second tee during final round of the Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course
Paul Dunne of drives off the second tee during final round of the Dunhill Links Championship at The Old Course

William S Callahan

Thorbjorn Olesen was back on the winning podium for the third time after claiming victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at St Andrews yesterday.

The Dane had spent three months out of action due to a hand injury earlier in the year and a string of missed cuts in June and July left him in the doldrums.

But yesterday the world looked so much brighter as he accepted the winner's cheque for €708,171 and he looks forward to a European Tour exemption until the end of the 2017 season.

Olesen shot a final-round 65 for an 18-under-par total and victory by two shots from American duo Brooks Koepka and Chris Stroud.

Irish trio Paul Dunne, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell all finished joint 19th, six shots behind the winner on 12 under.

Dunne's 70 on the Old Course - at which he led the British Open after 54 holes last July - rounded off his first European Tour event as a professional, yielding a pay day of €47,536 - not bad for a first week on the job.


He caught the imagination of the Irish public in the Open in his role of David to the Goliaths of the top-ranked players in the world, and he gave another good account of himself in the Dunhill.

His first-round 64 at Kingsbarns left him only a shot off the lead after day one, and subsequent cards of 70 (Carnoustie), 72 (St Andrews), and 70 again yesterday combined to make this a satisfactory debut.

Dunne has his priorities right, as was evident when he said: "If I keep focusing on getting better and progressing, then money should take care of itself over time."

The reality is that every invitation he receives between now and the end of the year is a bonus and a learning curve.

The Greystones man has come through Stage One of Tour School Qualifying and continued progress through that gruelling process is his most likely route to winning playing rights on the big Tour.

This week he gets another taste of big-time European action courtesy of an invitation to the British Masters in Woburn. Dunne is sensible enough to know that the pro game is all about the journey and the process.

Sometimes, as happened with Olesen, everything falls into place and a coveted Tour win arrives.

En route to that happy situation, it's all about the ebb and flow, of trying to find that elusive key that opens the door to the next level of achievement.

McDowell showed signs that he nearly had that one cracked in this tournament.

At one stage yesterday the 2010 US Open champion was just two shots off the lead with eight holes to play.

Through his first ten holes he went through a slightly weird but positive sequence of scoring birdie on holes one, three, five, seven and nine, and par on the even-numbered holes.

From the 10th through the 14th it was all pars, and three bogeys from his last four holes took the gloss off it for G-Mac.

Lowry was playing his first tournament since the US PGA Championship in August and after a first-round 74 at Carnoustie, the WGC-Bridgestone winner followed up with 69 at Kingsbarns and 66, 67 at St Andrews.

That should tune him up for a busy period in which he will play six more tournaments before the end of the year.

The Dunhill event is a celeb-am for the most part, with the leading 20 teams of pro and an amateur qualifying for the final round.

Former Germany, Bayern Munich and Chelsea star Michael Ballack, who plays off 18 handicap, only met his professional partner, Florian Fritsch - he hails from Munich - ten minutes before they teed off last Thursday,

The Germans won the Team Event with an overall score of 40 under par following a last-round better-ball of 62 at St Andrews, with Ballack holing a par putt on the 18th for a nett birdie.

Said Ballack: "We had to get two birdies in the last two holes, and somehow we did. It was really special."

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