He's the former UAB golfer who in one month last year went from the NCAA men's golf championships to the top of the British Open leader board.
The 22-year-old became the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to lead the British Open after 54 holes. With his former UAB coach as his caddy, Dunne carded a third-round 66 — the lowest round ever by an amateur in the Open at St. Andrews. At 12-under 204, he shared the lead with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen.
"Surreal," Dunne said.
"Phenomenal," added fellow Irishman Padraig Harrington.
And, as it turned out, fleeting.
Dunne finished with a final-round 78 and in a tie for 30th.
But Dunne is back at the British Open this week. Now a professional on the European Tour, he will get another shot at the major tournament starting Thursday at Royal Troon. He won an Open qualifier last month at Woburn Golf and Country Club in England for the third consecutive year.
Dunne will be joined by another former UAB golfer, Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion.
“He’s done what I want to do,” said Dunne, who followed in McDowell’s footsteps at UAB and hopes to continue doing so.
- Both hail from the island of Ireland — McDowell from Portrush, Northern Ireland; Dunne from Greystones, Ireland, born in Dublin.
- Only one UAB player carded a better total in the NCAAs than Dunne’s 283 — McDowell, who tied for fourth in 2002 with a 3-under 279.
- Dunne was Conference USA Golfer of the Year in 2014. Only one Blazers player has more — McDowell, who won the honors in 2001 and ’02.
Dunne also will be joined again by Alan Murray, UAB's golf coach who will caddy for Dunne at the Open for the second consecutive year. Murray also coached McDowell at UAB.
“Paul’s got a great work ethic,” said Murray, who was an All-MAC golfer at Toldeo. “Really bright guy, similar to Graeme. Got a lot of talent. He’s got a Tour-quality short game. It’s phenomenal. One of the best pitchers and chippers, bunker players, I’ve ever seen. Manages to play the right shot all the time. He makes it look easy.”
Dunne made it look easy through 54 holes at the Open last year, carding 69-69-66.
“He played unbelievable," playing partner Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, said after the third round. "His second shot on 17 was one of the best I’ve seen."
Dunne's final round, however, was not.
But he went to play for the triumphant Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team against America. He made his professional debut in December at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, opening with a 64 to share top spot. He finished in a tie for 19th.
He also won a place in the history books by winning an Open qualifying event at the same venue for a third consecutive year..
“What an unbelievable achievement to win this tournament for a third year in a row,” Murray said. “The Open is arguably the biggest tournament in the world and for him to get back there after his historic performance last year as an amateur is great for him.”
Thanks to everyone for the messages. Delighted to be playing @TheOpen again. Plenty go golf to be played first though!
— Paul Dunne (@dunners11) June 29, 2016
The UAB duo of Dunne and McDowell will face a major challenge from three other golfers from the ASN family of schools — U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson (Coastal Carolina), Masters champion Danny Willett (Jacksonville State) and former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie (Houston Baptist).
The 53-year-old Montgomerie qualified for the first time since 2010 and will hit the opening tee shot Thursday on his home course.
"It means the world to me, sure it does," Montgomerie said. "It is a great honour. I hit my first shot of golf when I was 6 years old on the children's course, which is now the TV compound, I believe.
"This is where I started playing and this is home. There's not many pros here that have the opportunity to play an Open on their own course where they're members of."
• Round 1 tee times
Above: Paul Dunne shot a 66 in the third round of the British Open last year, the lowest by an amateur in the Open at St. Andrews. (Courtesy British Open via Twitter)