Paul Dunne shares the lead after hole-in-one at Dunhill Links
Greystones golfer cards 64 at Kingsbarns in thrilling professional debut
Ireland's Paul Dunne plays his second shot to the sixth green during the first round of the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns in Scotland. Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Paul Dunne’s first day at the office as a professional proved to be a thrilling one as he carded a hole-in-one on his way to taking a share of the lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links.
The 22-year-old from Greystones, who had a share of the lead going into the final round of this year’s British Open, carded an eight-under 64 at Kingsbarns, finishing his day by rolling in a birdie from off the green at the par-five ninth hole.
The undoubted highlight though came at the signature par-three 15th hole, where he holed a five-iron from 205 yards to move to two under.
Dunne’s day continued to get better from there as he went on to record six birdies in the remaining 12 holes to sign for a 64.
Dunne’s Walker Cup colleague Jimmy Mullen had come in before him with a 64 at Kingsbarns, while Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg made it a three-way share of the lead with a 64 at the Old Course in St Andrews.
Starting on the back nine at Kingsbarns, Dunne had carded two birdies, two bogeys and one par before holing his tee shot on the 15th.
“I kind of needed it,” he admitted. “I got off to a bit of a ropey start. I was hitting a lot of poor full shots. My putter was kind of saving me and it was nice to get a hole-in-one. It was exactly as I pictured it.
“I tried to start it at the left edge of the green and let the wind drift it and I thought I hit it close. When I saw it drop, it was great. Nice little bonus there. I played some good golf from then on in. Happy with my score.
“I’ve been looking forward to getting started as a pro for a while. No better place to do it than on a links-style course like this. All three courses are in fantastic condition.
“Just looking at St Andrews (in practice), it looks a lot different. There are not all the massive stands from the Open but it brings back playing it, recent memories, and hopefully I can make some more like I did the first three days in the Open.”
Mullen joined the paid ranks after contributing four points to September’s record victory over the United States at Royal Lytham, becoming the first Britain and Ireland player to compile a perfect 4-0 record since Paul Casey and Luke Donald in 1999.
And the 21-year-old from Devon carried on from where he left off with eight birdies, an eagle and two bogeys at Kingsbarns.
“It’s great,” said Mullen. “I didn’t quite expect it obviously, to shoot eight under first time out. But Pablo (Larrazabal) helped me along and the two amateurs we were playing with, Miguel (Duenas) and my partner, Pascal (Alfaro) are just really nice guys. It was just a jolly out there really.
“Only played one round, so I wouldn’t say it’s easy. I’ve got a lot of learning to do but what I did as an amateur worked, so I didn’t see any reason to change it.
“I’ve only played Kingsbarns once. I’ve played St Andrews lots of times and played Carnoustie five times in a year in the British Amateur, so I know those well. Carnoustie is always tough no matter what conditions you play in. I think it could be almost won or lost around Carnoustie, really.
“I’m happy I’m playing it last so I can build some confidence up and hopefully play well again at St Andrews tomorrow, shoot a good score, and really to go to Carnoustie knowing I’m playing and swinging it well.”
Soren Kjeldsen, Richard Bland and Anthony Wall all shot 65 at Kingsbarns to share fourth position.
Peter Lawrie carded a five-under 67 at Kingsbarns, while Graeme McDowell put himself in a strong position with a four-under 68 at Carnoustie, the joint lowest score at the toughest of the three courses.
Former champion Michael Hoey and Damien McGrane carded rounds of two-under 70 at Kingsbarns, Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke had a 71 on the Old Course, which was matched by Kevin Phelan at Kingsbarns.
Another Walker Cup star, Gary Hurley, endured a tough professional baptism with a one-over 73 at Carnoustie, while Shane Lowry’s return from a six-week break ended with a 74 on the same course. Pádraig Harrington could only manage a 75 at the venue where he won the first of his two British Open title, with fellow Dubliner Paul McGinley also carding a 75 at the track.