Sporting Advent Calendar #17: Amateur Paul Dunne leads the Open on final day
The young Greystones native played some incredible golf at St Andrews, while making history
Amateur Paul Dunne of Ireland waves to the crowd as he walks off the 1st tee during the final round of the 144th Open Championship. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
At the start of the week for the 114th Open at St Andrews, Paul Dunne - kitted out in Under Armour gear supplied by a friend of the family - had been the subject of numerous cases of mistaken identity, as golf fans sought his autograph believing him to be history-chasing Jordan Spieth who was seeking a third straight Major win of the year.
By the end of the week, Dunne - a then 22-year-old amateur from Greystones in Co Wicklow, a Business Finance graduate from the University of Alabama-Birmingham - was immediately identifiable to one and all. Those seeking his autograph knew exactly who he was, and of what he had very nearly achieved.
Having earned his ticket in golf’s oldest championship by being medallist in qualifying at Woburn, and then assisting Ireland in the European Team Championships in Sweden, his arrival in St Andrews had quite literally come via a mixture of trains, planes and automobiles. His practice days were spent getting to know the course again, playing with Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Adam Scott among others. A player very much under the radar.
Then, it all changed. Dunne - an amateur with intent - flew into view and everyone took notice. With each passing day of a championship that would stretch into a Monday finish due to high winds which affected Saturday’s scheduled third round, the Irishman progressed. An opening round 69 was followed by a second round 69 and then a third round 66, which had him in the lead (alongside Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen) going into the final round. Not since the legendary Bobby Jones won his third Claret Jug in 1930 had an amateur last won the Open.
On this occasion, it was not to be however. Dunne suffered a nervy bogey-bogey start. On that second hole, his club slipped in the wet conditions as he drove and he would actually hit a sleeve of three balls, including two provisionals, and slowly it all slipped away. He signed for a 78 for 282 which trundled him down the leaderboard to 30th, with Zach Johnson winning a play-off for the old Claret Jug.