Paul Dunne didn’t clinch his maiden win in the Joburg Open but if he learns from his final round mistakes it won’t be long before he’s hoisting some silverware to the heavens.
The greens are Royal Johannesburg and Kensington spiked up badly for the later starters but while Dunne admitted they were bumpier, he felt he forced too hard and ended up struggling with pace as he tied to guide his putts into the hole rather than just hit them with authority.
The 23-year old, who was just two strokes off the lead and tied for fourth overnight, paid for a slow start and closed with a level par 72 to finish solo ninth, five shots behind 21-year old South African Haydn Porteous on 13 under par.
Whether a 67 or 66 was within Dunne’s compass on the final day is another question. But that he took 32 putts in the final round and scrambled for par just once out of six and still came sixth in the putting stats says it all about his day on the greens and his week in general
Failing to birdie the par-five first off a perfect drive was not in the script and when Dunne bogeyed the third and fourth, he was always chasing and never quite caught up.
“I drove the ball great and gave myself chances, I just didn’t putt well,” said the pride of Greystones, who earned €20,960 to move to 59th in the Race to Dubai and around 550th in the world rankings.
“I think I was trying to force things a little bit too much and a few putts were coming up short — trying to guide the balls on line rather than freeing up and letting myself hole some putts.
“I probably tried to force it too much but level par was a bit disappointing."
While he admitted there were more pitch marks and spike marks to deal with, Dunne preferred to blame his over-enthusiasm rather than the poor greens for a round that featured five birdies and five bogeys.
Having slipped to two over par after four holes following mistakes at the third and fourth, he bounced back well with birdie fours at the sixth and eighth and a fine birdie three at the ninth.
He was within two shots of the leaders with the back nine to play and needing a birdie barrage to contend.
Instead, a bogey at the 10th, where he chipped too strong from short of the green and lipped out with a 10 footer for par, proved fatal and it was no surprise that he also bogeyed the 11th before playing his last five in one under to secure the first Top 10 finish of his professional career.
“I’d probably have taken a Top 10 at the start of the week, if that’s where I finish,” Dunne said somewhat unconvincingly. “But it’s disappointing to put yourself in a position like that and then kind of fall away.”
Reflecting on tallies of 29, 24 and 28 putts on the first three days, he added: “If I had putted half as well as I putted the first three days I would easily have had a chance to win. That’s disappointing but there are positives signs.”
Unable to secure invitations for the three Desert Swing events, Dunne will have to "make do” with appearance in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
No doubt the European Tour will be kicking themselves if he makes a big splash in those iconic West Coast Swing events following a quick visit to see his coach in Birmingham, Alabama, next week.
As for the rest of the Irish in Johannesburg, Kevin Phelan closed with a four under 68 to share 53rd on three under while Michael Hoey’s 74 left him tied 61st on one under.
As for the winner, Porteous carded a final-round 69 to win by two shots on 18-under par from compatriot Zander Lombard with Bjorn Akesson of Sweden, South African Justin Walters, Daniel Im of the United States and Anthony Wall of England sharing third on 15-under-par.
Lombard and Wall will join Porteous at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, as the Joburg Open was one of the tournaments in The Open Qualifying Series, in which the top three players not otherwise qualified get in to the world’s oldest major championship.
Wall edged out the others on 15-under by virtue of his higher world ranking.
“It’s any golfer’s dream to play in the Open Championship,” said Porteous. “It’s something I didn’t think I was going to get into this year, and through winning this, I’m in! Words can’t describe how happy I am right now.”
His victory underscored the rise of a new generation of young players on the Sunshine Tour after Stone’s victory last week, and, with Lombard turning 21 on Monday, the future of South African golf is bright.