Dunne's dilemma: McDowell says go pro, Padraig says wait for Walker Cup

Graeme McDowell sees few reasons why Paul Dunne shouldn't give the Walker Cup a miss and take the leap into the professional ranks as soon as possible. But Pádraig Harrington believes he should remain amateur and play at Royal Lytham and St Annes in September, if he’s selected.

Asked his advice, Harrington said: “You know, he can be a pro all his life. The Walker Cup only comes around not very often. I think golf in the Walker Cup and turn pro then.”

The 22-year old Greystones amateur made headlines around the globe and captivated millions of TV viewers worldwide as he led The Open into the final round, eventually finishing 30th after a closing 78.

According to sponsorship analytics firm Apex MG Analytics, coverage of Dunne wearing Under Armour gear he got for free from a family friend in the sports distribution business might have been worth $1.725 million in terms of TV ad time. And that was on Saturday alone.

But without the Claret Jug to go with the great performance, several agents who spoke off the record at St Andrews, doubt that the move would be worth it just yet.

McDowell waited to play in the Walker Cup in 2001 and didn’t turn professional until the summer of 2002, winning in his sixth start (his fourth on the European Tour).  

In fairness to him, his suggestion that Dunne turn professional right away came with the assumption of a good final round and not the 78 that left him fourth of the five amateurs who made the cut.

The silver went to the impressive young American Jordan Niebrugge, who finished in a tie for sixth on 11 under after a 70.

England’s Ashley Chesters tied for 12th with world amateur No 1 Oliver Schniederjans (67) on nine under following a 69 with Dunne 30th on six under and Amateur champion Romain Langasque of France tied 65th on two under after a 74.

“If he has a good finish today, I don’t really know why he needs to wait for the Walker Cup,” McDowell said after a closing 70 left him tied for 49th on four under.

“Listen, the Walker Cup is one of fondest memories of my career but it means nothing as soon as you press the professional button.

“A good finish today is going to put him on the map. He need starts, he’d have an opportunity between now and the end of the season to possibly get his European Tour card and those extra five, six or seven weeks could be beneficial to him. 

“Walker Cup is very special. It’s a tough call. I’d be saying to him to go ahead and take the leap, if he had a good finish. If he blew out today, it’s tough decision to make.”

Without the fairytale win or the Silver Medal, Dunne is playing with little collateral, unlike Shane Lowry, who earned a two-year European Tour exemption until the end of 2011 for winning the 2009 Nissan Irish Open as an amateur.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one agent said: “His profile is much higher now and obviously and the goalposts would have moved.

“His goal before this week was Walker Cup and I’d say he has to take stock tomorrow morning. It’s a question of getting today in the books and then sitting down with the people around him and saying, how do things feel.” 

Dunne plans to be at Walker Cup venue Royal Lytham and St Annes today (Tuesday) and tomorrow for a 20-man Walker Cup squad session.

But without the Claret Jug, his performance is worth little in terms of cash and a Walker Cup appearance followed by a few chosen invitations and a trip to Q-School looks more likely.

Yes, he could sign with an agency that could promise him a cash sum of “a hundred grand or more” in the short term, one insider said. And he would likely command invitations to events like the Portugal Masters and the Alfred Dunhill Links, which would mean a return to the Old Course.

But even had he won The Open, Dunne would not have become a millionaire overnight as he’s not a massive draw and would not command huge signing on money with a manufacturer.

Yes, the exemptions would have been gold dust but he woudl still have to go out and prove himself and earn his cash the hard way. 

“Not many guys who can go out there and hit the ground running and everything goes smoothly,” one agent said.

McDowell still believes that Dunne has what it takes to make it and it’s hard to disagree looking at his performance at St Andrews.

“Listening to his press conference, he seems like he’s a pretty wise old owl, he has that Jordan (Spieth) maturity to him,” McDowell said. “I played with him this week in practice and he hit golf ball very well. 

“He’s very strong, has a very technically sound swing and seems cool and unflappable. It’s an amazing performance, no matter what happens today. 

“With the kids nowadays, there’s a readiness there now that wasn’t there I was turning pro. 

“These kids are all exposed now. They come out ready to win big tournaments. Rory and Jordan has raised the bar. You don’t have to be a mature veteran in your 30s to be able to compete in top tournaments.”