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Paul Dunne - Class of 2011

January 27, 2016

The high school class of 2011 has another member this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, although Paul Dunne is different from the others.

For starters, he's from Ireland.

And it's not like he grew up playing junior golf against Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, Daniel Berger or the others.

''I played the Junior Players Championship. That was the only AJGA event I played,'' Dunne said Tuesday. ''I played all my junior golf mostly in Ireland or around Europe with the Irish national team. So I didn't travel to America too much, so I didn't really get exposed to those kind of people.''

Dunne rose to a measure of fame last summer at St. Andrews when he became the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to have at least a share of the 54-hole lead in the British Open. He closed with a 78 and wound up fourth among amateurs.

He stayed an amateur to play in the Walker Cup, and then earned his European Tour card at qualifying school. Because he has a low priority, and the European Tour events are strong in the Middle East, Dunne took a sponsor's exemption and will make his PGA Tour debut at Torrey Pines.

Dunne went to Alabama-Birmingham, the alma mater of former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, so he knows players from his class. Thomas stands out because he went to Alabama, and they played several events together. He just hasn't played in the same group as Thomas or Spieth.

Also in the field this week is Ryan Ruffels of Australia, the 17-year-old who recently turned pro.

Dunne is 22.

''I think he's more advanced than I was at 17, Dunne said. ''He's obviously proven that he can play well and compete at high levels. So if he feels like he can come out and do well straight away, then I have absolutely no issue with his decision to turn pro. But for me, I always wanted to go to college. My parents always instilled kind of academic excellence in the family, so they were always big on me getting a college degree and then make my own decisions after that.''




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