Dunne ready for Major No 2: "I feel a lot more comfortable"

Dunne ready for Major No 2: "I feel a lot more comfortable"

Paul Dunne. Picture: Pat Cashman

Being mistaken for Jordan Spieth on his first day at St Andrews by the man who blew the 1970 Open is something Paul Dunne can tell his grandkids when he retires.

But whatever about his chance meeting with Doug Sanders on the range on Monday — an Under Armour cap and Dunne’s passing resemblance to the current Masters and US Open champion was the cause of the confusion — the 22-year old Greystones amateur has set his sights only a tad lower than the American this week.

By rights, Spieth should have been playing alongside Dunne in the NCAA Championships in Florida last May but having ditched college after just year to become a full-time superstar, the Texan is clearly operating on a different plane to the University of Alabama Birmingham graduate

Should he add the Open to his Masters and US Open titles on Sunday, Spieth would acquire God-like status. 

But Dunne admits he’d be happy just to hear his name called before the American’s in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse on Sunday night when the Silver Medal winner is invited to step forward to receive the prize awarded to the leading amateur.

Not that he’s getting ahed of himself, but having qualified for The Open for the second year in a row, Dunne feels a little less intimidated than he did at Royal Liverpool last year when his build up included a practice round alongside world No 1 Adam Scott.

“It would be huge,” the fair haired Wicklow man said of what it would mean to win the medal. “It’s hard really to know how much to would mean. I remember watching it last year, watching the prize-giving, when Rory went up to get the trophy. And I remember thinking how cool it would be to have your name called out first and to walk out in front of the crowd. 

“But I am not thinking about that for now. Obviously to achieve that I would need to pay all four rounds and 72 holes fo golf is a lot of time. I am going to go out and try to focus on what I do every week and see what I shoot.”

Before McIlroy won the Silver Medal in 2007, the only Irish amateur to win the Silver Medal was Joe Carr in 1956 at Hoylake and 1958 at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.

Assessing what it might mean is not the primary focus for Dunne, who is going to turn professional after what he hopes will be a Walker Cup call up in September

Performing well in this company, even if he doesn’t win the medal, is his primary goal. 

“It’s brilliant,” he said of simply being in St Andrews, shortly after a Monday practice round in the company of Graeme McDowell and, briefly, Shane Lowry. “I have only played here once [in last year's St Andrews Links Trophy] so it was good to get a look at it today in pretty much benign conditions, so we can see how it plays. 

“But it is special to look behind us and see the square of the first and the 18th, it is pretty cool with the stands up. The stand behind the 18th is massive. Hopefully when they get full there will be a great atmosphere around here. But it is a great town.It is always nice to come back.”

Dunne topped the qualifiers at Woburn for the second successive year and while he arrived on the back of a disappointing fifth place finish for Ireland in the European Amateur Team Championships in Sweden last week, he’s feeling good about his game.

“I probably put a lot of pressure on myself to qualify this year and I started off badly in the first round but relaxed and started playing well again,” he explained. The new Titleist driver he's ben using for the past month appears to be working.

”I was trying not to think about coming to the Open at St Andrews. It is pretty special so hopefully when Thursday hits, the game is back in good shape.”

Dunne will make an early start the second group at 6.43am with former champion Todd Hamilton and American James Hahn.

And he’s hoping the experience of 12 months ago will stand to him and he can produce a strong performance.

“I feel a lot more comfortable in the whole surroundings. I am obviously not 100 percent in my comfort zone but I definitely feel a lot more comfortable that last year,” he said. “You never know if experience will help you play better or not. That’s golf. You could play great and not so great the next day. 

“But I do think it will make my preparations a little bit better. I will be less overwhelmed by the practice rounds and who I am playing well and the spotlight around everything. So I will have a better chance to prepare my game, prepare the course and go out with the right mindset on Thursday. 

“It is like anything else, putts can drop, putts can lip out. You can hit  a few bad shots here or there and drop a few shots so I am looking forward to it and hopefully I can play well, get some good breaks and have a good finish.”

Dunne is happy the links is lush and green as it means it will play fair and allow him to attack a little more.

His goal is simple.

“I don’t know if it is based on a finish,” he said of his ambitions. “It is more playing golf that would make me feel proud at the end of the day. Committing to shots, just knowing at the end of the day that I did everything at the end of the day to give myself the chance to play well. As long as I can take care of that, I can’t control 100 percent where the ball is going to go with the club.

“Obviously it would be great to make the cut and brilliant to win the Silver Medal but you can’t really control those results. Another amateur could go out and win. It is obviously not likely but you could come second and not win the medal or  come 50th and win it. It is not really under my control. I’ll go out and take care of business like I usually do and see what I shoot.”

While his father Colum caddied last year, Dunne has a fellow Greystones man who knows his game on his bag - the UAB head coach Alan Murray.

“He sees me play every day so he knows my game batter then anyone else,” Dunne says. “He knows what makes me tick.”

The Amateurs chasing glory at St Andrews