Paul Dunne is making a habit of creating history and if he wins against the confident young American Bryson DeChambeau in today’s quarter-finals of the US Amateur Championship he will become the first Irishman to reach the last four since Joe Carr at Pebble Beach 54 years ago.
He broke Carr’s Open Championship record of 1960, carding a 66 to shave a shot off the all-time third round low for an amateur and went on to become the first amateur to lead going into the final round since Bobby Jones in 1927.
Dunne would end up disappointed to finish tied 30th at St Andrews, where Jones won the Claret Jug. And so he will be hoping for better at Olympia Fields, where Johnny Farrell shocked the golf world by defeating Jones in a 36-hole playoff to win the US Open in 1928.
In beating both 17-year old Caleb Proveaux and 22-year old David Oraee (prounounced O’Ray) 3 and 2 in the round of 32 and round of 16 respectively, Dunne outstripped the US Amateur feats of a 17-year old Ronan Rafferty, who lost to David Tentis on the 20th in the third round at Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1981.
“No, not really. I knew I had the game to play well. It was just a matter of doing it at the right time,” Dunne said as he completed a carousel of interviews for TV and press in the enormous clubhouse. “The game feels good, hopefully I can play well tomorrow and keep the ball rolling…
“I didn't think I'd get the experience of playing in the final group of The Open, but it's something I'm grateful to have done. I knew I could shoot the scores I needed in order to play as well as I have. I just didn't know it would put me in the situations it has. But for the amateur stage, I knew that I'm good enough that if I play well, I can compete in any amateur event.”
Dunne, 22, who accepted a special exemption into the championship from the USGA, knows 21-year old DeChambeau and respects his game.
“He does things a little differently to everyone else, but he obviously does it really well. He's got a great game. I'm sure it'll be a good match tomorrow. It'll be a tough match, but I know if I do the things I can do and play my game that I'll have a good chance.”
DeChambeau has a California confidence that’s reminiscent of a young Mickelson’s and as a physics major who plays with specially designed clubs — each one is 37.5 inches long with a six-iron shaft but varied lofts so he can swing the same every time— the similarities are remarkable.
As the reigning NCAA champion, DeChambeau and his trademark Payne Stewart/Ben Hogan flat cap beat the Haskins Award winner Maverick McNealy, the world No 2, by 3 and 2.
And like Mickelson, he is such as science geek, not to mention PR-smoothie, that he’s as compelling a figure as you could wish to meet in the amateur game in 2015.
Asked about his unique approach to the sport, DeChambeau said: “I mean, to start it off, my irons are, again, all the same length. I'm sure you know that. They're all the same lie angle, they just have degrees of loft on it. They have just a 6-iron shaft in each iron, and same bounce. What else? Pretty much the same thing except there's 4 degrees of loft difference on each club.”
But there’s more…
“Well, statistically -- yeah, so I use a system that Scott Fawcett came up with. I don't know if you guys know who Scott Fawcett is, but he's been caddying for Will Zalatoris, and he's helped me understand the percentages of going for flags, when to go for flags and when not to. It's more of a shotgun approach rather than a sniper approach where you can't hit it five feet right of the flag every single time. It's more of a shotgun distribution, and so we try and move that distribution to where you're maximizing your potential of hitting the green every single time.
“Obviously it doesn't work out every time because it's different factors, but on average it helps me save I'd say a shot a round at least. It's pretty influential and helpful out on the golf course for me.
“And then on the putting side of it, I use contour maps, and I also have a green reading system called Vector Putting. It was the original system of green reading, and fortunately there's been some talk about that, but I can't say anything further on that note in regards of AimPoint and whatnot, but Vector Putting is what I use, and it's been very helpful for me in understanding green reading, and I aim at a certain point above the zero break line or upper straight putt, and gravity just does the rest.”
As for his confidence, it’s high since he won't he NCAA Individual title — holding off Dunne and others — and he’s not averse to a little psychological warfare.
“As I said at the NCAAs, it was total belief that I could do it, and one other factor, as well, is getting off to a hot start. I didn't today, but I pushed through and grinded my tail off and was able to push through again.
“But the first couple matches, I started off hot and kept it going. I pushed the pedal to the metal, and that's my theory now for match play is to keep pushing them down, and whenever they feel like they have a chance, don't let them have a chance. Hit it close, make a putt, do whatever you need to do to be ahead of them always. Even walking ahead of them, something that I try and do to make them feel like I'm ahead.”
Dunne has more than enough game to deal with DeChambeau and may well run into him at Royal Lytham and St Annes in next month’s Walker Cup.
That the Greystones man will be selected is a sure thing and if he wins this weekend, he will have given captain Nigel Edwards and his future team mates a major boost.
Not that Dunne is getting ahead of himself but even 2007 US Walker Cup skipper George “Buddy” Marucci was impressed that the Irishman’s ball flight and short game prowess — a dangerous combination in matchplay in windy conditions.
“I think he controls his ball flight really well for this wind, it’s been really good,” said Marucci, who lost to Tiger Woods in the 1995 US Amateur final, the second of Woods’ three successive amateur wins.
“He was a little erratic and didn’t hit the ball as well today, but he sure played well. And I love the way he hits his irons. I love that ball flight. So if it continues to be windy, I think he’ s got a big advantage. And he putts the ball beautifully, which is always important in a championship like this.”
DeChambeau didn’t describe Dunne as the greatest ever but he had to hold him off to win the NCAA’s at the Concession in May and knows all about what happened at The Open.
“He's a great player, obviously, and he sticks to his routine, as well, as I've seen on The Golf Channel, through the Open,” the American said. “He’s a very good player. Very nice guy from when I've talked to him and whatnot. Almost had a chance at nationals, as well. So it'll be a good battle again. This is a tough bracket, but I'm willing to pursue through it.”
Against Proveaux, Dunne won the second in par, lost the fifth after driving into a hazard but then took the sixth, eighth and ninth in par to go three up and never looked back
“I am driving it well and I am driving it long as well,” said Dunne, whose 300 yard drive into the wind at the tough ninth had caddie and Irish team mate Gary Hurley grinning and shaking his head.
“I’m hitting it long and straight and missing in the right spots, which means I am giving myself shots into every hole,” he said. “It’s about picking the right shots and the right targets.”
He was down early against Oraee, but holed huge putts at the third and fourth to go one up before drove into a hazard at the fifth for the second match running to be taken back to all square.
He wasn’t using the vector putting system but Hurley.
“Gary Hurley, my caddie, gave me a great read on that one,” he said of the 35 footer he sank at the third to get back to all square. “I wanted to go a little further left, and he told me it was a little further right, so I went with his read and made it.
“And the same thing on the fourth. It was about 35 feet again, and there was a pitch mark about halfway, a repaired pitch mark that I thought it was just right of, and when he read it, he thought it was just left of, and I went with his read and made it again. I had him read pretty much all my putts then.”
Dunne then won the par-five sixth to go one up and doubled his lead when Oraee lipped out from four feet at the eighth. In fact, Oraee avoided going three down by holing a 15 footer for par at the ninth.
Dunne looked odds on to go three up when he hit a great shot over the stick to 12 feet at the 13th and Oraee fanned a wedge into the right greenside rough,.
But he got back to one down by one-hopping a chip into the hole for an against-the-head biride win in birdie before Dunne won the 14th with a birdie and short 15th in par to go three up before closing out the win with another solid par at the 16th.
“He was a good player, but while I hit a few loose shots, I hit a lot exactly where I was aiming,” Dunne said. “He was a good player and got a good break on 13 with his chip. But I made a good birdie on 14 and closed it out.”
“I definitely had my toughest match this afternoon, but I played my best golf of the week, hit a lot of good shots, and I made a lot of good up-and-downs when I did hit a few loose ones. I felt like I kept the pressure on him kind of the whole day once I got in front, and I think that was the difference, really.”
The experience of The Open has been a huge boost to Dunne’s confidence and that could be his ace in the hole today.
“I think just being in the most pressure-packed situation in golf—obviously I didn't shoot a good score the last round, but I felt like I handled myself well. I wasn't overwhelmed by the situation, and to know that I can handle myself in that situation gives me confidence going into every other event that I'm playing, knowing that there's nothing that can be thrown at me that I think I can't handle.
“In that way, yeah, it's kind of a settling feeling. Yeah, some people have said that people have more expectation of me now, but that never really bothers me. There's always expectation from some people. There's just more people outside expecting me to do well there. But that stuff never seems to affect me. I'm just more interested in the expectations I have for myself.”
Dunne’s physical power and stability is under-rated and he explained that it was at UAB he transformed himself, losing 20 lbs of fat in his first year by doing a lot of running before adding back those 20lbs in pure muscle through gym work in his final phase.
The other quarterfinal match-ups are: Kenta Kinoshi, 21, of Japan, who once defeated Hideki Matsuyama in a Japanese amateur tournament, against Baylor University sophomore Matthew Perrine, 19, of Dallas, who played together in the stroke-play qualifying; 2015 Sunnehanna Amateur champion Derek Bard, 20, of New Hartford, N.Y., against World Amateur Golf Ranking No. 1 and Ben Hogan Award winner Jon Rahm, 20, of Spain; and Canada’s Austin James, 19, against Sean Crocker, 18, of Westlake Village, Calif., who holds American and Zimbabwean citizenship.
In addition to McNealy’s defeat by DeChambeau in the Round of 16, Bard registered a 2-and-1 win over Vanderbilt All-American and United States Walker Cup Team member Hunter Stewart; and Crocker, who was a third-team All-American in his freshman year at the University of Southern California, edged Robby Shelton, a first-team All-American at Alabama, in 20 holes.
Shelton, who had made a 22-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to square the match, missed a 3-foot par putt on the 20th hole which allowed Crocker to advance.
“I didn't expect that one little bit,” said Crocker. “I expected to be playing another hole, and then I just kind of – I was watching it, and I saw him just look up and not reach for the hole, and I saw my caddie just kind of wave me up. I didn't even believe it. I didn't think it was going to happen.”
As for his family's exit from Zimbabwe, where his father was a professional Test cricketer, he said
"I don't know how long he played. He was an amazing athlete. He became a farmer, and then when everything got really bad, it was just -- short story, it got unsafe for me and my sister to live there. So we ended up moving to my grandpa's house who still lives there for a couple months, and then just by the spin of the globe we ended up moving to California, and since then my dad's goal was to get me and my sister through college and a degree, and the rest of Zimbabwe is kind of history, going back there. I know personally myself I'd never move back there because there's not much for me, but my sister loves it there and she's safe, so that's all that matters.
"Q. Your grandfather still has the farm there?
SEAN CROCKER: No, the farm got taken away. It got seized by the government in a way -- not really government, but it got seized, and my grandpa is like literally five minutes' walk from the President's house."
The 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play (18 holes on each of Olympia Fields’ North and South Courses), followed by six rounds of match play (all on the North Course). The quarterfinal matches are set for Friday; the semifinal matches for Saturday and the 36-hole final for Sunday.
OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – Results from Thursday’s second round of match play at the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship, played at 7,234 yard, par 36-34-70 North Course (NC) at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Round of 32
- Kyle Mueller, Watkinsville, Ga. (143) def. Alex Burge, Bloomington, Ill. (141), 2 up
- Kenta Konishi, Japan (140) def. Thomas Detry, Belgium (140), 19 holes
- Todd Mitchell, Bloomington, Ill. (142) def. Ryan Ruffels, Australia (138), 3 and 2
- Matthew Perrine, Austin, Texas (142) def. Brad Nurski, St. Joseph, Mo. (143), 2 and 1
- Hunter Stewart, Lexington, Ky. (143) def. Will Zalatoris, Plano, Texas (141), 3 and 1
- Derek Bard, New Hartford, N.Y. (142) def. Sepp Straka, Valdosta, Ga. (138), 6 and 5
- Jon Rahm, Spain (143) def. Cameron Young, Scarborough, N.Y. (141), 7 and 6
- Daniel Wetterich, Cincinnati, Ohio (142) def. Sam Horsfield, England (142), 2 and 1
- David Oraee, Greeley, Colo. (134) def. David Cooke, Bolingbrook, Ill. (141), 2 up
- Paul Dunne, Republic of Ireland (140) def. Caleb Proveaux, Lexington, S.C. (140), 3 and 2
- Maverick McNealy, Portola Valley, Calif. (142) def. Maverick Antcliff, Augusta, Ga. (137), 5 and 4
- Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif. (140) def. Matt NeSmith, North Augusta, S.C. (138), 5 and 4
- Jake Knapp, Costa Mesa, Calif. (135) def. Chelso Barrett, Surry, N.H. (141), 1 up
- Austin James, Canada (140) def. Denny McCarthy, Rockville, Md. (142), 3 and 2
- Robby Shelton, Wilmer, Ala. (137) def. Will Grimmer, Cincinnati, Ohio (141), 3 and 2
- Sean Crocker, Westlake Village, Calif. (140) def. Adam Ball, Glen Allen, Va. (138), 3 and 1
Round of 16 (Third round)
- Kenta Konishi, Japan (140) def. Kyle Mueller, Watkinsville, Ga. (143), 2 up
- Matthew Perrine, Austin, Texas (142) def. Todd Mitchell, Bloomington, Ill. (142), 4 and 3
- Derek Bard, New Hartford, N.Y. (142) def. Hunter Stewart, Lexington, Ky. (143), 2 and 1
- Jon Rahm, Spain (143) def. Daniel Wetterich, Cincinnati, Ohio (142), 3 and 1
- Paul Dunne, Republic of Ireland (140) def. David Oraee, Greeley, Colo. (134), 3 and 2
- Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif. (140) def. Maverick McNealy, Portola Valley, Calif. (142), 3 and 2
- Austin James, Canada (140) def. Jake Knapp, Costa Mesa, Calif. (135), 2 and 1
- Sean Crocker, Westlake Village, Calif. (140) def. Robby Shelton, Wilmer, Ala. (137), 20 holes
- 12:45 p.m. - Kenta Konishi, Japan (140) vs. Matthew Perrine, Austin, Texas (142)
- 1 p.m. - Derek Bard, New Hartford, N.Y. (142) vs. Jon Rahm, Spain (143)
- 1:15 p.m. - Paul Dunne, Republic of Ireland (140) vs. Bryson DeChambeau, Clovis, Calif. (140)
- 1:30 p.m. - Austin James, Canada (140) vs. Sean Crocker, Westlake Village, Calif. (140)
Meet the US Amateur Quarterfinalists
Derek Bard, 20, of New Hartford, N.Y.
- Born June 14, 1995, in Charlottesville, Va.
- No. 51 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Defeated Hunter Stewart, a 2015 United States Walker Cup Team member, in Round of 16
- Playing in his second U.S. Amateur; advanced to Round of 32 last year
- Reached Round of 32 in both the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Junior Amateurs
- Five top-10 finishes as a sophomore at the University of Virginia in 2014-15
- Won 2015 Sunnehanna Amateur by one stroke with a 72-hole score of 12-under 268
- Finished first at both 2013 New York State Federation Championship and 2012 New York State Public High School Championship
- His brother, Alec, played in the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
Sean Crocker, 18, of Westlake Village, Calif.
- Born Aug. 31, 1996, in Zimbabwe
- No. 64 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Defeated 2015 British Amateur champion Romain Langasque and Alabama first-team All-America Robby Shelton en route to the quarterfinals in his first U.S. Amateur
- Competed in two U.S. Junior Amateurs, reaching Round of 32 in 2013 and quarterfinals in 2014
- Earned third-team All-America recognition as a freshman at USC in 2014-15
- Chosen Pacific 12 Conference Freshman of the Year and was first-team all-conference
- Helped the Trojans advance to the NCAA match-play final against LSU
- Attended boarding school in Zimbabwe before he moved to the United States at age 6
- His father, Gary, was a professional cricketer at international level
Bryson DeChambeau, 21, of Clovis, Calif.
- Born Sept. 16, 1993, in Clovis, Calif.
- No. 7 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Defeated Maverick McNealy, No. 2 in the WAGR, in Round of 16
- Playing in his 10th USGA championship and was a 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links quarterfinalist
- Advanced to match play in all five U.S. Amateurs played, but has reached quarterfinals for first time
- 2015 NCAA Division I individual champion and a first-team All-American as member of Southern Methodist University (SMU) team
- Qualified for this year’s U.S. Open and reached Round of 16 at U.S. Amateur Four-Ball
- Helped USA to victory at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship in Japan
- Wears a Ben Hogan-style cap while playing golf
- Chosen to the 2015 United States Walker Cup Team
Paul Dunne, 22, Ireland
- Born Nov. 26, 1992, in Republic of Ireland
- No. 33 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Competing in his first U.S. Amateur after receiving a special exemption from qualifying
- Defeated No. 2 seed David Oraee, 3 and 2, in the Round of 16
- Shared the 54-hole lead in the 2015 Open Championship, conducted by The R&A, and finished in a tie for 30th
- Shot a third-round 66 to become the first amateur since Bob Jones in 1927 to share the lead heading to the final round
- Fifth in the 2015 NCAA Division I Championship as a member of the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) team
- Earned All-America and All-Conference USA recognition for the second consecutive year
- Irish Boys champion in 2008 and 2009 and Irish Youths champion in 2010
Austin James, 19, of Canada
- Born Oct. 9, 1995, in Ontario, Canada
- No. 718 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Competing in his first USGA championship
- Defeated No. 3 seed Jake Knapp, 2014 U.S. Amateur semifinalist Denny McCarthy and 15-year-old Noah Goodwin en route to the quarterfinals
- Rising junior at Charleston Southern University, where he was a member of 2015 Big South Conference championship squad
- Placed 46th at NCAA Lubbock Regional; the Buccaneers were 13th as a team
- 2014 Canadian Junior champion, carding a 64, his lowest competitive round, during the tournament
- His sister, Augusta, won the Symetra Tour’s Patty Berg Memorial in her fourth start on tour last April and played as a collegian at North Carolina State
Kenta Konishi, 21, of Japan
- Born May 21, 1994, in Tokyo, Japan
- No. 632 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Playing in his first USGA championship
- Defeated 2015 U.S. Open qualifier Cole Hammer, current Illinois golfer Thomas Detry in 19 holes and Kyle Mueller, who upended the No. 1 seed in first round, on his way to the quarterfinals
- Won 2010 Junior Open, conducted by The R&A, held at Lundin Golf Club, in Fife, Scotland, with a 54-hole score of 2-under 211 (71-68-72)
- Tied for 31st in Japan Tour’s Top Cup Tokai Classic in 2014
- Started playing golf at age 3
- Shot a 63, his lowest competitive round, in 2012
Matthew Perrine, 19, of Austin, Texas
- Born Sept. 1, 1999, in Austin, Texas
- No. 333 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Competing in his second USGA championship and first U.S. Amateur
- Defeated 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Brad Nurski and 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Todd Mitchell on his way to the quarterfinals
- Advanced to match play in the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship
- Played at Auburn University as a freshman but transferred to Baylor University for 2015-16
- Recorded three top-25 finishes and had a 73.30 scoring average at Auburn in 2014-15
- Won 2014 Texas Class 5A UIL state championship and won 2014 Byron Nelson International Junior Golf Award
- Named to USA Today All-USA High School second team and was a 2013 Rolex Junior All-American
Jon Rahm, 20, of Spain
- Born Oct. 11, 1994, in Barrika, Spain
- No. 1 in World Amateur Golf Ranking™
- Playing in his second U.S. Amateur; advanced to Round of 16 last year
- Survived an 18-for-10 playoff to reach match play and defeated first-round opponent George Cunningham in 21 holes
- Medalist in the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship, breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record with a 72-hole score of 23-under 263
- Won the 2015 Ben Hogan Award as the top collegiate player as a junior on the Arizona State University team
- Earned first-team All-America and first-team Pacific 12 Conference recognition
- Tied for fifth at Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, the first amateur to record a top-five PGA Tour finish since 2008
- Captured consecutive Spanish Amateur titles in 2014 and 2015
- Spanish Under-16 champion in 2009 and Spanish Under-21 champion in 2010