Moroccan food poisoning will not keep Paul Dunne from K Club

The rookie pro is back on track after a spell in the hospital rather than on the greens

Paul Dunne is back on track after a bout of food poisoning. Photograph: Getty

Paul Dunne is back on track after a bout of food poisoning. Photograph: Getty


This past week hasn’t been anything like Paul Dunne had planned. First, there were the headaches, which grew in intensity. Then, came the cramps. And a high fever.

A tied 16th-place finish in the Trophée Hassan – Dunne’s latest outing on tour – had garnered a feel-good factor as he departed Morocco on a 3am flight last Monday. However, it seems a dish of pasta would ultimately leave a less welcome legacy; definitely not what the doctor ordered ahead of next week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the K Club.

Dunne (23) has hit the ground running in his new pro career, with six paydays and just two missed cuts from his eight starts so far on the European Tour. So a severe bout of food poisoning was bound to leave him floored.

Rather than conducting planned corporate days for sponsors Davy and KPMG, or getting in some practice at Straffan, the week was spent in doctors’ surgeries and the Blackrock Clinic.

Yesterday morning, after his first good night’s sleep in days, still confined to hospital bed but at least eating what he terms “experimental food” rather than a half- slice of toast, Dunne could finally feel some strength returning – and, quite possibly, some peace of mind as well.

After all, the Irish Open, long looming on the horizon and now at hand, is as big as they come. Thankfully, he will be there.

Light lunch

He didn’t feel great on the flight to Gatwick. “I was tired and had headaches, but thought it was because I hadn’t slept.”

After arriving at his parents’ house in Greystones on Monday, the headaches intensified, the cramps worsened and the fever heightened. By Wednesday he was in hospital: “The infection in my stomach was causing inflammation of the bowel.”

The results of blood tests were revealing. Normal CPR levels are between zero and five, and, for example, an athlete finishing a marathon might expect to have levels of 25. Dunne’s were at 245.

“With medication, the headaches and fevers eased off, the cramps abated and went away,” he said. “I got a bit of energy and have started to feel more like myself again.”

He could start to think about golf again!

Yesterday Dunne was meant to practice over the Ryder Cup Course with Jack Hume and Colm Campbell. Instead, he had some final tests and a hope of getting in some chipping and putting over the weekend.

“As long as I am better by next week, it won’t be too bad . . . I feel really positive, my stomach doesn’t feel too bad now, and hopefully I keep trending like this and I can start hitting some balls again the start of next week.”

Open sights

In fact, Dunne’s first taste of European Tour golf was when the European Open was held on the K Club’s Smurfit Course in the mid-noughties. He was a spectator. “I went with my dad a couple of times and with friends from the golf club.” It sparked a desire to play as a tour pro. One day.

As for the Irish Open itself, Dunne’s first time to attend was in 2009 in Co Louth. He was there for the early rounds, but had golfing plans of his own for Sunday’s final round: he was playing in GUI under 18 trials for an Ireland team at Carton House.

“I remember being on the 18th green and someone shouting that Shane [Lowry] had a chance to win. We all raced to the clubhouse to watch on television.” Another spark.

Dunne knows the Palmer Course. He first played it when he was 11 or 12 after receiving a birthday present of a green fee. Nowadays he shares a house with fellow golfers Gary Hurley and Jack Hume in nearby Maynooth. They have benefited from regular rounds. “We’re living just 10 minutes away and they’ve been very good about letting us use the course. I’m very familiar with it at this stage.”

The demands of the course? “I think it is like every day in Ireland – it depends what the weather throws at you. If we get decent weather, the course can score quite well. There are a few particularly demanding driving holes, like 7 and 17, very demanding off the tee. But if you drive it well you will give yourself chances and the greens will be good.”

In last Sunday’s final round of the Hassan Trophée, before the food poisoning took hold, Dunne went about his business and moved up 10 places to finish in tied-16th. But what he remembers is seeing a supporter in an Irish jersey.

“I said to my caddie, Darren [Reynolds], ‘we hadn’t seen one all week’. It would have been the first tournament anywhere I’d played for that to happen. Ever since I turned pro, I’ve yet to go to a country or a competition where an Irish fan hasn’t come out to support.

“It’s hard to beat the Irish fans.”

Dunne is especially looking forward to playing in front of home fans. Until now, his travels have criss-crossed the globe, from South Africa to Australia, the US to India, Spain to Morocco. His tour card category has meant long-haul flights were part of getting play time.

“In terms of the European Tour schedule, from now on is when it becomes normal,” he said. “The Irish Open is like the divide between when the European Tour actually becomes the European Tour . . . Irish Open, Wentworth, Sweden, Austria. More normal travelling.”

Twice as well

“It is tough, but, then, everyone who has the luxury of picking their schedules has been in that position and worked their way through it.”

His season has been one of consistency rather positioning to secure a maiden win.

“I haven’t played all that well, but haven’t played badly,” he said. “Every week something different has been good and something different is letting me down. In the overall scheme of things, I have putted well. But bad iron play or not getting up and down when you miss greens have crept in at different times in different rounds and in different tournaments. It is just a matter of putting everything together.”

Of the consistency he has shown in making cuts more often than not, Dunne said: “It is grand when you play and make it to the weekend. It is goal No 1 accomplished every week when you get through Friday, and trying to climb up the leaderboard to earn more points in the Race to Dubai is all well and good. But it would be a lot more thrill out of pushing for a place to try and win rather than trying to move up from 35th to 16th or something.

“You want to be up there challenging. Hopefully I will feel that again soon.”

After the week Dunne has had to endure, getting into contention in the Irish Open would, you feel, provide the perfect antidote.

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