Amateur Paul Dunne Delivers Biggest Shock of British Open, Takes Share of Lead

Lindsay GibbsFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2015

USA Today

With Jordan Spieth's quest for his third major in a row, everyone knew that history was on the line this weekend at St. Andrews.

However, nobody thought that amateur Paul Dunne would be the one making it.

After the third round, Dunne is currently tied for the lead at 12 under par. He is the first amateur to lead the British Open after 54 holes since Bobby Jones in 1927, and he is trying to become the first amateur to win the tournament since Jones in 1930.

He's pretty chill about the whole thing, too.

In a post-round ESPN interview with Tom Rinaldi, Dunne admitted that being atop the leaderboard was "pretty cool," but he wasn't getting swept away in the history-making aspect of it all.

His main goal for Monday's final round? "Make contact with the ball."

If you're unfamiliar with Dunne's name, you're far from alone.

Dunne is a 22-year-old Irishman who is only playing in his second major championship after missing the cut at last year's British Open.

While he's actually older than Spieth, he has been far less heralded than the American superstar.

Dunne, who just graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, finished fifth in the individual competition at the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championship in June. His college coach, Alan Murray, is his caddie at St. Andrews.

He's currently 80th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and had to qualify just to make it into the field.

ESPN noted during the broadcast that Dunne's odds to make the cut before the tournament began were 5-1, and his odds for the title were a staggering 1,500-1. Even after the second round concluded and despite being in the top 10, he was still at 200-1 odds to win, according to Odds Shark.

At the beginning of Sunday's round, he didn't even have a Wikipedia page, as SportsJoe.ie noted via Twitter.

Of course, that was quickly remedied in spectacular fashion:

Dunne was tied for 10th at six under par heading into the day, but a round of 66 that included six birdies and no bogeys on Sunday was enough to shoot him into the lead.

As Ryan Ballengee of Devil Ball Golf reported, Dunne's 54-hole score of 12 under par is the lowest for an amateur in the history of The Open, and his 66 on Sunday is the lowest score ever by an amateur in The Open at St. Andrews.

"There was so much pressure on him going out, and he handled it so well," Louis Oosthuizen, Dunne's playing partner, told Tom Rinaldi on ESPN after the round.

Throughout the third round, Oosthuizen could be seen congratulating and cheering on his inexperienced competitor, which should make for a fun atmosphere on Monday when the two tee off last in the final round.

Of course, that's a familiar position for the 32-year-old South African, who ran away with the British Open trophy the last time it was at St. Andrews in 2010, winning by seven strokes.

Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Dunne, your final pair on Monday.
Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Dunne, your final pair on Monday.Jon Super/Associated Press/Associated Press

He doesn't have a cushion like that this year, though—there are 25 players within five strokes of the lead.

Jason Day is also tied with Dunne and Oosthuizen at 12 under par, and he'll tee off with the seemingly unstoppable Spieth, who is at 11 under.

If that's not enough excitement for you, Dunne's compatriot, Padraig Harrington, a two-time winner of the British Open who has been mired in a slump in recent years, is at 10 under par; and there are nine players at nine under par, including Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen and another amateur, Jordan Niebrugge.

But out of all of those incredible stories, nothing tops what Dunne has done so far.

The golf majors are dominated by pros. We're used to it being a big deal when amateurs merely make the cut at the marquee events, and usually their stories are long over by the time the contenders tee off in the final round.

Experience is supposed to trump talent when the pressure gets turned up, but nobody bothered to tell that to this 22-year-old.

Of course, it remains to be seen how Dunne will handle things on Monday as the finish line draws closer and the spotlight shines brighter. It certainly wouldn't be a shock if he stumbles.

But Dunne has already defied the odds at St. Andrews, so bet against him at your own risk.