The Open 2015: Paul Dunne can be the 'southern Rory McIlroy'
While the world of sport was asking "Paul who?", nobody at Greystones Golf Club here yesterday was in the least surprised by Paul Dunne's audacious bid to become the first Open amateur winner since 1930.
As members swapped the office for the club bar in the town 17 miles south of Dublin, it was standing room only in the County Wicklow clubhouse to watch the Irish youngster, who began wowing locals as a 10-year-old, take the lead into the final round at St Andrews.
"If you had asked any of the members here last Wednesday if they'd be surprised if Paul finished in the top 10, I'd say the majority of people would have said 'no'," said David Fry, who looks after the club's under-15 team, all of whom are now aiming to become the next Paul Dunne.
"We all know the talent is there, it was just a case of when it was going to come through. I would be shocked if he doesn't become a star and hopefully a southern Rory McIlroy."
In the club foyer, a photograph of a teenage Dunne alongside a list of achievements underlined that potential, with barely enough room to cram in his collection of regional, national and European honours. Upstairs locals roared as Dunne fought back with two birdies in three holes after dropping shots on his first two.
"After I watched him in practice, I told everyone in the club to put money on him making the cut because he was just hitting the ball so well," club professional Karl Holmes told national broadcaster RTE from St Andrews, as the 22-year-old's progress dominated TV, radio and newspaper front pages.
"He was always an exceptional sportsman, he excelled at tennis, soccer, Gaelic (football). He was of those annoying kids who is just really good at everything. His life is obviously going to change dramatically after today."
His dream of becoming the first amateur to win the title since 1930 quickly evaporated with a poor back nine that left him six-over par for the day and six-under for the tournament. But, having watched their man show remarkable composure to shoot three sub-70 rounds before yesterday's disappointing 78, the United States university graduate was given a standing ovation in his home clubhouse as he tapped his final putt.
"Unbelievable, it's been the fulfilment of what he's done for years and years," said 68-year-old Nigel Robinson, helping overrun bar-staff collect empty pint glasses.
"He is the nicest young gentleman that you could ever come across. No matter where he finished, he did us all proud."
While the journey feels like it is just beginning for Dunne, his compatriot and two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington has endured many ups and downs during his long golfing journey. But the Dubliner, whose final round 75 was only enough for a share of 20th place, believes he has rediscovered some form.
"I felt very good mentally; not great on the greens at times but very good mentally up to a certain point," he said. "Then the greens kind of got a bit to me. I hit lovely shots really all the way home.
"Only really that tee shot on 17 wasn't great but everything was pretty strong. I felt I hit the ball every bit as well but I clearly didn't putt well today. I have to think about that and figure it out."