Dunne is tied for the lead with Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen at -12 after three rounds.
He shot 69 on back-to-back days to make the cut and then made an amazing move up the leaderboard during the third round by shooting six-under-par. The final round of the tournament was pushed back to Monday because of weather delays. Dunne will be alongside Oosthuizen in the final group, teeing off at 2:30 p.m. local time.
“I’m not really going to think about winning or where I’m going to finish until the last few holes,” Dunne told the BBC. “I don’t see why [an amateur could not win a major]. I’m well capable of shooting the score that I need to win if everyone else doesn’t play their best.”
Here’s what you need to know about Dunne:
1. He Almost Missed His Tee-Time During a Qualifying TournamentDunne, who is 80th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, qualified for The 144th Open Championship by shooting a 65 at a qualifying tournament at Woburn in June, according to the Irish Times.
Dunne almost didn’t make it into the tournament field, as he nearly missed his tee time during the qualifying tournament, according to RTE. He arrived with a minute to spare:
It’s not like I slept in and got to the course late. I was at the course in plenty of time. I’d warmed up, I’d hit balls, hit some putts. I had an 8.15 tee-time and I knew there was a shuttle service from the clubhouse to the 10th tee so I arrived at the clubhouse at about 8 o’clock but I didn’t realise that the shuttle to the 10th tee took ten minutes.
And then when I got there at 8, the shuttle didn’t come for five minutes. And then I asked them how long does it take to get there and they said 10 minutes so that’s when I started to sweat a little bit. But luckily when I got out of the van there was a starter looking at the van asking if there was a Paul Dunne there, so I was lucky to get there at 8.14 and get going.
Dunne got off to a great start in the tournament, with birdies on the first two holes. He talked to the Irish Times about his opening round:
Before the tournament started, he told the Irish Times:
I feel like myself and (caddie) Alan (Murray) got a really good game plan in the practice rounds, so we kind of have strategies to play different holes if the wind is off different sides, what targets to pick and when to attack pins and when to play conservative and just take par. I feel like once we know our strategy, it’s easier to kind of relax into it and just go about it like normal golf because it takes your mind off the fact that it’s The Open Championship and it’s a big event, so it just makes you think it’s normal golf again.
It would be nice to get the silver medal, my last year as an amateur. It would be something I would remember forever. But there’s a lot of golf and a lot of bad weather to play in before that. I’m not going to think about it, I’ll put a new number in my head and go about business.
Dunne finished his second round of play on Friday, meaning he had all of Saturday off, giving him a bit of rest for Sunday’s third round.
He played in last year’s Open at Royal Liverpool, but he missed the cut by two shots after shooting 75 and 73 on Thursday and Friday. He also qualified at Woburn in 2014.
Dunne was a 1500 to 1 shot to win the tournament. He said he had 5 to 1 odds to make the cut, and some of his friends placed bets on him.
“I think I made a lot of people at home some money, hopefully I can steal from the bookmakers some more tomorrow,” Dunne told ESPN after the third round.
Dunne would be only the second golfer from the Republic of Ireland to win the tournament. Padraig Harrington won the Claret Jug in back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008. Harrington is also in contention this year at -10 through three rounds.
“There’s not too many people who have been leading going into the third round of The Open as an amateur – it’s phenomenal,” Harrington told the BBC. “If I don’t win, I hope he does.”
Three winners have come from Northern Ireland: Fred Daly (1947), Darren Clarke (2011) and Rory McIlroy (2014).
2. He Played College Golf at UAB & His Caddy Is His College Coach
Dunne graduated from the University of Alabama-Birmingham in April after playing golf there for four years. His caddy at The Open is UAB golf coach Alan Murray, a fellow Irishman. Murray was Golf Week’s coach of the year in 2014 after leading UAB to the NCAA Tournament.
“As a college coach, it has been brilliant to caddy for a player during a major tournament,” said Murray told Al.com after the third round. “Paul has been spectacular all week and continues to show his class on and off the golf course. It’s an Open at St. Andrews, so it feels special the moment you walk on the grounds at the start of the week. Sheer pride and enjoyment is what I have had all week being able to share the entire experience with him and his family. I feel very lucky.”
Dunne finished fifth at the NCAA tournament in 2015. He won only one tournament during his career at UAB.
He also recently helped lead the European team to a victory over American golfers at the Palmer Cup, a battle between the top college golfers.
“He’s just a winner. That’s how you would describe him,” Murray told GolfWeek in March. “He wants to do this for a living, and he understands that you have to work as hard as the guys on TV are working.”
Dunne, who graduated with a degree in finance, plans to turn pro later this year and will look to earn a spot on the European Tour.
Fellow UAB alum, Graeme McDowell, told the Irish Mirror he is rooting for Dunne to stay in contention.
“I played with him on Tuesday in a practice round, and he hit the ball very well. He’s long and he’s strong, and he looks like he’s got a very complete game,” McDowell said. “It’s a big day for him out there. I hope he goes and has a great day and kicks on.”
Dunne has taken some lessons from his fellow Blazer, telling GolfWeek about playing practice rounds at least year’s Open with McDowell, “His biggest thing, especially since it was a major and the course plays quite hard, was patience. He said to keep an even keel and concentrate on the next shot. The more you play, the more you realize it’s true.”
3. He Is Older Than Jordan SpiethDunne, at 22, is actually a year older than Jordan Spieth, who at 21 has won the Master’s and U.S. Open championships this year. He was born November, 26, 1992, while Spieth was born on July 23, 1993.
Another amateur who has found his way into contention, American Jordan Niebrugge, is also 21. Dunne and Niebrugge will also be competing for the Silver Medal, which goes to the low amateur at The Open.
The youngest British Open champion is “Young” Tom Morris, who was 17 when he claimed the 1868 championship. The youngest winner post-1900 is Seve Ballesteros, who won the 1979 tournament at 22 years, 3 months and 12 days old.
4. He Was a Standout Junior Golfer in IrelandDunne was one of the top players on the junior circuit in Ireland and won the Irish Youths Amateur Championship in 2010, joining a list of champions that also includes Louis Oosthuizen and Padraig Harrington.
He is from Greystones, Ireland, and is the son of Colum and Michelle Dunne, according to his UAB profile, and has an older brother, David, and a sister, Alison. His brother is a performance nutritionist with Harlequins Rugby, Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club and British Canoe.
He attended Blackrock College, a Catholic secondary school in Ireland, before heading to UAB.
5. He Would Be the First Amateur to Win The Open Since 1930, But Would Not Get the Million-Dollar PrizeThe last amateur to win the British Open was Bobby Jones in 1930, and only five amateurs have won the tournament in its history. Johnny Goodman was the last amateur to win any major, the 1933 U.S. Open.
Because he is an amateur, Dunne would not receive the $1.8 million first-place prize money or the hundreds of thousands he could win for finishing toward the top of the leaderboard.
According to Yahoo, the money would move down the line, so the second place finisher would get the $1.8 million, the third place finisher would get the runner-up prize of $1.025 million, etc.
Dunne decided not to turn pro prior to The Open because he wants to play in the Walker Cup, according to the Irish Times. The Walker Cup, which pits a team of amateurs from the United States against a team from Britain and Ireland, will be played on September 12-13 at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England.
But Dunne could earn an exemption into next year’s four majors by winning the Open. He would earn an exemption into next year’s Open with a top-10 finish.
Dunne also missed out on sponsorship money he could’ve earned from Under Armor.
With the Under Armor-clad Dunne and Spieth in the final two groups on Monday, the Baltimore-based company is likely to see another boost to their relatively new golf brand.
“It’s just making sure you get the right ones and they all sort of fit together,” Ryan Kuehl, Under Armour’s vice president for sports marketing and sponsorships, told the Baltimore Sun before the British Open began. “You want them to be able to say: ‘Gary Woodland, you’re the guy that hits it really far. And Hunter Mahan, you’re the consistent guy who makes a lot of Ryder Cup and President’s Cup teams and has been with us the longest.’ And Jordan’s been playing the best for the last two years but that doesn’t mean the other guys can’t win one.”