The Open 2015

Dunne Holds His Own Among Leading Pros

Ireland's Paul Dunne teeing off in the third round of the British Open. He had led Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth by a shot going into yesterday's delayed final round.
Ireland's Paul Dunne teeing off in the third round of the British Open. He had led Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth by a shot going into yesterday's delayed final round.PHOTO:: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Irishman is the first amateur to lead golf's oldest Major at the 54-hole stage in 88 years

LONDON • Amid the names that studded the Open leader board after 54 holes on Sunday, Paul Dunne's stood out like a fly enmeshed in the froth of a Guinness.

It did so because the 22-year-old Irishman is an amateur golfer and an amateur had not led the Open after 54 holes since Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones did so in 1927.

Dunne ended a crazy day of low scoring in a three-way tie at the top on 12-under 204 with Australian Jason Day and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

American sensation Jordan Spieth, who won the year's first two Majors - the Masters and the US Open - was a shot behind.

There is something refreshing about Dunne, whose mother is a teacher and father is the chief financial officer of the Irish Times.

He has a sister, Alison, and a brother, David, who is the chief nutritionist at Harlequins RFC, Queens Park Rangers football club and the British Canoe Union.

Dunne seems calm and composed beyond his years, intelligent enough to have a degree in finance.

Imagine that, at 22, you are a good but not great amateur golfer, ranked 80th in the world, yet you are leading the oldest Major championship in the world.

You might have difficulty in stringing a sensible sentence together, mightn't you? Not Dunne.

He addressed the question of whether he believed what was happening to him in the same calm quiet way as he had manhandled the Old Course hours earlier on Sunday.

"It's surreal that I am leading the Open, but I can easily believe that I shot the scores that I shot," he said. "If we were playing an amateur event here, I wouldn't be too surprised by the scores I shot. It's just lucky that it happens to be in the biggest event in the world."

Good as Dunne was as he moved through the ranks of Irish amateur golfers, he was far from the outstanding amateur in the country.

He won at boys' and youth level, then went off to the University of Alabama, where Graeme McDowell had studied a few years earlier.

"He's a winner. That's how you would describe him," the Northern Irishman and 2010 US Open champion said recently in Golfweek magazine. "He wants to do this for a living and he understands that you have to work as hard as the guys on television are working."

Years ago, amateurs won the Open, Harold Hilton in 1892 and 1897 and John Ball Jr in 1890. The great Bobby Jones did so in 1930 en route to winning what was known then as The Impregnable Quadrilateral, the amateur and Open championships of both the United States and Britain.

More recently, Justin Rose finished fourth in 1998 and Chris Wood fifth in 2008. There was the promise shown by Tom Lewis, who had a 65 in the first round of the 2011 Open as he played alongside Tom Watson. He was described then by Pete Cowen, the coach, as the most professional amateur he had worked with.

Recently, Jordan Spieth forecast that an amateur would win a Major "within a decade". His evidence was that amateurs are making more and more of an impression. Spieth's comment was as accurate as most of his golf strokes.

At the recent US Open, six played all four rounds, the most since the 1966 US Open. Five amateurs survived the cut at this Open, the most since 1961.

Regardless of what happened on the final day of the Open yesterday, Dunne has already given a good account of himself and provided a few thrills and spills that will be written into the imperishable record of this, the most distinguished and venerable championship of all.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'Dunne Holds His Own Among Leading Pros'. Print Edition | Subscribe