Winning the British Open is a life-changing event for a golfer. The Claret Jug is arguably the most prestigious title in golf and winning it earns the player a spot in golf history. The championship also comes with a number of exemptions that secure the player's status for the next few years. Of course, there is also a large check involved, this year the winning share in $1.8 million.
Paul Dunne is tied for the 54-hole lead at The Open, but his bank account won't receive a six, or seven-figure deposit regardless of how he plays in the final round. The 22-year-old Dunne is an amateur and ineligible to receive any prize money this week, including $1.8 million if he were to win.
Every now and then, an amateur plays well in a major and misses out on a significant payday. Those are usually in low six-figures, however, and not nearly $2 million. No amateur has won a major championship since Johnny Goodman won the U.S. Open in 1933. The last amateur to win the British Open was Bobby Jones in 1930.
A lot of players retain their amateur status in a major because it is their ticket into the event. There are a handful of exemptions for various amateur championships that allow some of the top amateur's into the event. They must retain amateur status to retain the exemption. They must also remain an amateur if they want to continue to play at the collegiate level.
Neither of those are issues with Dunne. He completed his final season and the University of Alabama Birmingham and earned his way into the field by playing well in sectional qualifying. Dunne could have declared himself a professional prior to the tournament and would now be 18 holes away from the biggest payday of his life. Except he didn't and can't now. Dunne is scheduled to play in the Walker Cup -- the Ryder Cup for amateurs -- and remained an amateur at the British Open so he could still play in the Walker Cup in September.
In hindsight, it could prove to be a very expensive decision. Merely a top-15 finish would likely net him at least $150,000 depending on ties. A top-three finish likely earns at least a half a million dollars. While he may regret the decision to remain an amateur, it's hard to blame Dunne. Even he probably didn't see this performance coming. He had a nice career at UAB, but was hardly the "next big thing" coming in professional golf. He entered the British Open ranked as the No. 80 amateur player in the world.
Paul Dunne is not ranked 80th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He is 80th in the Amateur ranking... and leading the Open— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 19, 2015
Dunne was a 1500/1 favorite to win entering the tournament. His odds will be much higher on Sunday as he tees off in the final group with a chance to win the British Open. It's been an incredible week for him, even if it won't come with a giant check, but one that almost didn't happen. Dunne nearly missed his tee time in sectional qualifying because of a shuttle and showed up only with a minute to spare.
He will get a chance to make history on Monday and hopefully he really enjoys playing in the Walker Cup.
SB Nation video archives: Urban golfing with a U.S. Open champ (2012)