Dunne aiming high Down Under: "I’m going to try and set some high expectations for myself and hopefully I can live up to them"

Dunne aiming high Down Under: "I’m going to try and set some high expectations for myself and hopefully I can live up to them"

Paul Dunne during a practice round for the Australian PGA. Picture: Getty Images

It would be churlish to demand a win from Paul Dunne at the end of such a monumental season. But the 23-year old rookie understands better than most that if he reaches for the moon, he may attain the stars.

The Greystones man only has to look back on his incredible year to know that the higher his expectations and the greater the pressure, he better he generally performs. No wonder he’s dreaming of a maiden win in his season-ending appearance in the Australian PGA Championship in Queensland.

Having enjoyed an incredible 2015 season, during which he led The Open after three rounds as an amateur, played a vital role in Great Britain & Ireland’s Walker Cup victory over the USA and then turned pro and secured full playing rights on the European Tour by coming through all three stages (playing 14 rounds) of the Qualifying School, Dunne is more than ready to embark on his first full season in the paid ranks.

Given the whirlwind nature of his year, it is somewhat fitting that he will play his final event of 2015 some 10,000 miles from his native Greystones at the RACV Royal Pines Resort on the stunning Gold Coast.

He will have to overcome a strong field which includes American Ryder Cup star Brandt Snedeker and Sweden’s David Lingmerth, who is now an Affiliate Member of The European Tour as he seeks to make his Ryder Cup debut for Europe in 2016.

The Australian challenge will be spearheaded by the likes of PGA Tour stars John Senden and Robert Allenby, while Greg Chalmers will seek to successfully defend his title.

But Irish eyes will be on Dunne and his former amateur team mate Kevin Phelan, who has also made the trip Down Under to seek that elusive first win on Australian soil.

Having won his card at the Q-School in hugely impressive fashion, Dunne explained that he had just 20 hours at home to enjoy it before he was jetting out to play in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek, where he missed his first cut as a professional.

He’s got four weeks off after this week before he heads back into action but while will wait until he gets home to set his 2016 goals, his form this year tells him that the higher he aims and the greater the competitive tension, the better he performs.

In truth, he’s found the transition to professional golf to be a smooth one, especially when it comes to competing. 

“It’s got a different environment but it’s the same game you’re playing,” he said in Queensland where he will tee it up with Edoardo Molinari and Marcus Fraser for the first two rounds. 

“I was quite busy with amateur golf when I was turning pro, so it was kind of a seamless transition really. I didn’t see it as any different, it was just playing golf again like any other weekend. 

“It’s been quite busy since I’ve turned pro, I’ve played a lot of events. I haven’t found it too bad. I suppose I haven’t had much of a break to kind of reflect. This will be my last one of the season and then have a nice break for Christmas.

“I’ve enjoyed it so far, it’s been brilliant. I’ve had some good finishes and had some real fun as well, so hopefully I can finish it right this week.”

He was delighted to get through Q-School at the first attempt, claiming a tied for 13th and the 16th card having dodged a bullet at the Second Stage by coming through a six-man playoff for two spots.

Paul Dunne made the bold call in his 6th class yearbook at St. Laurence's School in Greystones. See Joe.ie for the full story

At PGA Catalunya, he began slowly but hit form near the end and coasted home on the final day

“Yeah well first stage I did back in September and it was - I played quite well. I got through it without much stress and then second stage, the week before the final stage was a little different.

“I got through in a six man play off, two spots so I kind of scraped through that one and then the final stage I had a good fourth and fifth round and that kind of put me in good position to play more conservatively the last day and cruise home a bit but it’s a long week, six days.

“It’s basically a full week of playing competitive golf and it takes its toll on you mentally but it was great to get through in the end.”

While he had to head off on tour almost straight away, that’s preferable to sitting at home looking out the window and now that he’s travelled so far, he’s hoping to take advantage by putting some Race to Dubai cash on the board.

With no idea yet where he might start 2016, he’s looking to finish 2015 with a bang and with just nine of the world’s Top 200 in action, he’s got every chance of a big week.

“Yeah, I’d love to give myself a chance to win,” Dunne said. “I mean, I feel like every week I’ve played since I turned pro has been quite pressure filled. I’ve kind of had to play well every week and then once I got my card, I don't know, last week almost was a bit of a relax. Your media pressure is lifted a little bit and I think that hurt my performance in a way.

“So I’m going try to find a way to put some pressure back on myself this week, see if I can play well and have a chance come the weekend. I really don’t like taking weekends off, so last week was a bit frustrating for me, so hopefully I can play better this week.

“It’s hard to know exactly my best environment to play, but certainly recently I’ve played better on the weeks when I really had to play better and then weeks when I got a kind of a bit of a break from it is when I struggle a bit. 

“So for now I’m going to try and set some high expectations for myself and hopefully I can live up to them and just kind of put myself back in that environment that I need to do well this week.

“It’s a learning thing. Last week the way I prepared and everything wasn’t quite as intense as it was in other weeks and I think that hurt me overall. Hopefully I’ll take a different approach this week and see if it works.”

Looking back at The Open, where he was tied for the lead with one round to play following rounds of 69-, 69 and 66, eventually finishing tied 30th after a closing 78, he learned how close he is to being able to compete and win at the highest level.

Had he shot three under on Sunday, an achievable goal, he would have made a playoff. With a 68, he’d have won.

“So when I simplified it like that it made me realise how easy it is to compete,” he explained. “Obviously it’s difficult to win but how easy it is that if you’re playing well and let yourself play well, you can kind of be up there with the strongest field.

“So it just gave me confidence knowing that if I kept playing well and kept improving that I’d have a chance against people that I would have looked up to growing up.”

Majors are clearly in this man’s future but for now, he’s keeping his goals simple.

“Yeah, my immediate goals are just to try and get better every day. If I keep getting better then the results will take care of themselves. It’s hard to target certain weeks and say I’m going to win this week because if you’re in that frame of mind there are certain weeks that you will take off and think you don’t have to perform so well.

“I’m just going to try to keep working on things, keep improving my game and hopefully I can play well on anything.”

While his pals and Walker Cup team mates Gary Hurley, Gavin Moynihan, Jack Hume and Cormac Sharvin are all capable of great things in the game, Dunne is the pack leader right now.

Born in 1992, he grew up watching Tiger Woods and then Padraig Harrington rack up the majors while Rory McIlroy was an Irish boy wonder he never met.

“When I was younger I always looked up to Tiger Woods, I think every junior did at my age, but in Ireland it was definitely Padraig Harrington when I was just starting out,” he said. “I started when I was 10, so around that time he was really playing well. Then when I got into my teens he started winning Majors.

“So it was really cool to see that, see someone from such a small country do so well and then when I went off to college I was in the same university as Graham McDowell and then you start seeing what he accomplished, his records through college.

“More recently people like Shane Lowry, I played a little bit with him before he turned, and just to see how he’s come on in the last five or six years, is incredible.

“I’ve never met Rory McIlroy, he’s just kind of in a different league to everyone else I guess right now, so he’s an inspiration as well.

“There are so many good golfers that have come from Ireland, it’s nice to know that they’ve kind of paved the way and I can follow it."