It doesn’t help that we’ve just come out of an era of unprecedented success for Irish golf, with wins in majors, World Golf Championships and the biggest tournaments in the game. But even so, this has not been a vintage year for Irish professional golf by any means.
That’s what made the performance of Irish players at this week’s British Masters such a welcome sight. At the British Masters, Paul Dunne held off a charging Rory McIlroy, while Shane Lowry finished in seventh place.
The depth of Irish golf is deeply lacking, once you leave behind, with a severe lack of Irish European Tour regulars in comparison to France, England, Spain etc. Gone are the days when Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane could be relied upon to grind week-to-week.
That’s why it was important for Paul Dunne to step up to the next level and win a European Tour event. To finish it in the way he did: a 61, one shot off the lowest final score by a winner in European Tour history, to beat the European Tour’s No 1 star Rory McIlroy. A masterful chip-in at the final hole for birdie. The stuff that dreams are made of.
It means that Dunne goes to 12th in the Race to Dubai standings, and to number 88 in the Official World Golf Rankings, edging him closer to a place in the elite tournaments of golf. He has already secured his spot in the no-cut big money WGC-HSBC Champions at the end of the month, and he does not have to worry about his European Tour playing privileges for the next two years.
— Paul Dunne (@dunners11) October 1, 2017
Then there is the small matter of €562,000 winner’s cheque. “I will probably buy a boat,” Dunne joked. “Nah I don’t know yet; I’ll have a look. I probably would rather buy something nice for my family or something.”
Dunne spoke about the importance of putting his foot down and playing for the win in what turned out to be a low-scoring day at Close House. As McIlroy finished 64-63 at the weekend, despite going out in 30 shots, a level par back side would have left him behind the Northern Irishman.
The putter has been the nemesis of many Irish players over the years, but that does not seem to apply to Dunne. Even by his standards, he was masterful with his short game at the British Masters, needing just 21 putts on the final day with 7 out of 7 scrambles.
Dunne was aware of his finish at the Trophee Hassan II earlier this year. He had finished solidly with a 72 but was beaten in a playoff after Edoardo Molinari finished birdie-eagle. It’s exceptionally rare to be handed a victory at Tour level, especially against a player of the calibre of Rory McIlroy.
Great day for Irish golf. A new winner on tour @dunners11.Hopefully the first of many for the next generation of young Irish golfers.
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) October 1, 2017
“I had a two-shot lead in Morocco and Edoardo finished birdie, eagle so I was just waiting for the leaderboard to show Rory having a hole-in-one on the last or something.
“I kind of assumed Rory would birdie 16 or 17. He birdied both. That’s why I took driver on 17, tried to beat the hole-in-one shot. Any time you can go up against Rory Mcilroy and beat him, it’s pretty much a dream.”
A day he will never forget, and what should be the first of many European Tour wins.