Paul Dunne headed into this week’s British Open hoping to cadge honors as low amateur and win a silver medal. After finishing Sunday’s weather-delayed third round, the 22-year-old from Ireland shared the lead and was poised to become the first amateur to win the Open Championship since Bob Jones did so in 1930. He may be the last amateur to lead after 54 holes since 1927.
The last amateur to lead after 54 holes in @TheOpen was Bobby Jones in 1927. Paul Dunne leads by 1.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 19, 2015
"That would be brilliant. It would be nice to get the silver medal, my last year as an amateur," Dunne said after Friday after posting a second straight 3-under 69 on the Old Course. "It would be something I would remember forever."
Dunne found himself, after a ho-hum birdie putt on No. 15 (his sixth of the day on a flawless scorecard), a stroke ahead of Grand Slam-seeking Spieth’s 11-under and into solo first place after Danny Willett dropped a shot on his 13th.
So, who is this young 1500/1 shot trying to spoil the party for Spieth and in a tie for the lead (at the time) with Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day at 12-under?
After reportedly showing up a minute before his tee time for a final qualifying round, Dunne won the event over such luminaries as Colin Mongtomerie and Retief Goosen. Well known in amateur circles, Dunne was a two-time All-American at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Dunne, whose goal is to play for Great Britain/Ireland in September’s Walker Cup, is making his second British Open start. He scored a 75-73 last year, missing the cut by two strokes, according to Golfnet.
"Last year I was a bit overwhelmed," Dunne told Golfnet earlier this week. "The first few days it was hard to settle in. It's different feelings in your body that you're not used to when you're hitting shots. The first practice round I played with Adam Scott and Shane Lowry. It was a lot of people watching for what I'm used to.
"I'm not going to say I'm going to play better [this year]. It's golf, you never know how you're going to play but I'll definitely feel less out of my comfort zone," he said, "I'm not going to be 100 percent comfortable but I'll be more used to the situation and know what to expect going into it and then I think I can use the practice round to prepare a little bit better and learn the course rather than just thinking about where you are"
Despite that appearance last year in The Open, Dunne is not some top flight amateur prospect. He's not 80th in the world rankings, he's 80th in amateur world rankings.
Dressed on Sunday in grey threads similar to those sported by Spieth, Dunne’s attitude also drew comparisons to the two-time major champ who is going after his third consecutive grand slam title.
"I think advice is great. Shane [Lowry] told me to embrace it and enjoy it. Graeme [McDowell] told me to stay as patient as you can. Don’t get flustered. It’s easy if you make a few bogeys to let it get to you," he said. "Experience is so invaluable. This will be another great experience. I might play awful, I might play great. Either way I’m going to live the next week."
Small wonder Paul Dunne finds himself giving the big boys all they can handle.