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January 26, 2016

Paul Dunne

San Diego, California

AMANDA HERRINGTON: Good morning, everyone. We would like to welcome Paul Dunne to the interview room here at the Farmers Insurance Open. Paul, thanks for joining us this morning. Story is you're making your professional debut on the PGA TOUR this week.

So first love to hear your goals going into this week and what you're looking to get out of it.

PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, obviously I'm very excited to make my PGA TOUR debut this week and spend a few weeks in California. When I was playing in college I was always striving to turn pro and play golf on a professional TOUR and I was excited to get my European Tour card back in Q-School in November. And now I have a few weeks off the European Tour these few weeks and really excited to see what the PGA TOUR has to offer.

In terms of goals for the week, I kind of set my goals at the start of the year to just try and improve every day. Get better each week and let results take care of themselves. So I'm just going to keep working on my game and hopefully I put some good scores together.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: Obviously, huge scale recognition during The Open Championship. Can you talk us through how life changed for you, if it did, from that point and then securing your European Tour card.

PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, it was great. It opened a few doors for me to get invitations into certain events. I'm sure that - when I turned pro I got three invites on the European Tour straight away and I have a couple here in America now. So obviously without my play in the Open Championship I probably wouldn't have these. So it's opened great doors for me in that respect, but it didn't change the plans that I had. I stayed amateur for another couple months and played the Walker Cup, which was something I always wanted to do. Then went through European Tour Q-School.

So, yeah, I've kind of stayed on the same path, but it's just opened a few doors and opportunities into certain events that I wouldn't have had without it. So it's been brilliant.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: We got to catch up with UAB alum, Graeme McDowell, when he won during the fall series. So as a UAB athlete as well, can you talk about your college experience here in the States.

PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, it was great. I played under head Coach Kaufman and Coach Murray, two years under each. And Alan Murray is from a town five minutes from me in Ireland. I've known him since I was 10, so we had a great relationship going over to the States.

Then over there he was a good friend for me for a couple years, then when he took over as head coach he went to more of a coaching role. So he's been a big influence on me.

I had a great experience in Alabama, loved the people there, got on great with my teammates. Yeah, kind of sad to be finished. But then happy to be starting a new chapter in my life.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: All right. Questions?

Q. So, the class of 2011, I believe, are you the same age as all those guys like Smylie Kaufman and Jordan and Justin Thomas?
PAUL DUNNE: I think I was in the same class as Spieth and Justin Thomas, yeah. I think Smylie was a year ahead of me. Smylie's grandfather was my head coach my first two years, so.

Q. You know Smylie?
PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, I know my Smylie. I've played him a few times. He was one year ahead of me, graduated in 2014, if I'm right and then played his year on the WEB.COM. He's been doing fantastic. It's been great to see someone you know achieve great things and hopefully, I can follow in his foot steps.

Q. Did you graduate high school in 2011?
PAUL DUNNE: Yes. I started college August, 2011. So, yeah, I finished.

Q. So how much of those guys did you see from say 2005 to 2011 or even 2000 to 2011 at like big international junior competitions? Did you see Spieth, did you see Justin Thomas?
PAUL DUNNE: Not really. I played the Junior PLAYERS Championship. That was the only AJGA event I played. I played all my junior golf in 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. I just saw their names and World Ranking lists and those kind of things. So, yeah, it was good to get the experience playing against different competition when I finally came over for college.

Q. When was the first time you ran across Spieth and Justin Thomas?
PAUL DUNNE: I've never played with either of them. I played a lot of events the same events as Justin Thomas, because he went to Alabama. So we played a few events with him.

And I think that the only college events I would have played with Jordan were probably NCAA regionals or finals. But I never actually played with him in college. I just was in the same events.

Q. Who won between you and Justin Thomas?
PAUL DUNNE: Probably Justin Thomas, if you see his college record.


Q. What made you decide to take these two weeks on TOUR and what's the tentative plan for the rest of the year as far as trying to split time and maybe get starts here as well as playing in Europe?
PAUL DUNNE: Well, when I got my Tour card back in November, my European Tour card, I was having a look at the schedule and category 16 status on the European Tour is for Q-School graduates, so it doesn't get you in every event. When I was looking at the schedule I knew I had the first couple events in South Africa and then my category wouldn't get me into the events in the desert swing.

So I knew I had a good break in tournaments and then we just sought about finding places to play and looked to America. We were lucky enough to get invites over here. So any time you can get invites to events this big, obviously with the overall goal for me would be to end up on the PGA TOUR. So yeah, any exposure I can get to that early is great. So I'm really looking forward to these few week.

Q. Have you been to California before?
PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, I've been actually here a new times. We played in Stanford's event a few times. I played nationals my freshman year at Riviera. So I've probably been here four times. Love it.

Q. Any time spent at Torrey before this, though?
PAUL DUNNE: No, never been to San Diego. Couple of my good friends came here, one of them is on the golf team, University of San Diego, the other one played on the tennis team. So they're friends that I know from Ireland and Scotland. Going way back. They said they just absolutely love San Diego. Said it was the hardest thing they have had to do to leave. So I've always been looking forward to coming here. The views are absolutely spectacular, the golf course is great and hopefully, I can play well as well.

Q. Who is it from the USD?
PAUL DUNNE: Graham Forrest.

Q. Who has had a really good amateur career himself, right?
PAUL DUNNE: He's doing well. I think he says he's going to spend another year as an Amateur and then he's going to turn professional.

Q. When you see a guy like Ryan Ruffels from Australia now turning pro at 17, guys seem to turn pro younger and younger now and not finish school. But then you have guys like Ryan Ruffels who don't even go to college. How did you -- did you ever consider going pro at any younger age and how do you look at that as far as maybe what he gains versus what he misses by not going to college?
PAUL DUNNE: Well, I don't know Ryan or his family well, so I can't really comment on their decision. But for me, first of all, when I was 17 I wasn't nearly good enough to turn pro. I think he's more advanced than I was at 17. 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. So, coming to America to play college golf gave me the best of both worlds. I could get a degree but then spend most of my time practicing and preparing for professional golf.

So I never really thought about leaving college early to turn pro. But I think that's more because my game wasn't ready, I didn't feel like I was good enough at the time. Then I showed steady signs of progression as the year went on and then felt like it was the right time last September.

Q. The reaction in Ireland and around the British Isles last year, post-Open Championship, what was that like for you, was it a little fun, was it a little overwhelming, what was the reaction?
PAUL DUNNE: Yeah, it was great. Over at the Open Championship there was so many of my friends and family over there where people that I had met once or twice. Just I feel like when I looked in the crowd I knew 90 percent of the people there, I had seen their faces before. So to have that home support was great. The Irish people, we're an incredibly proud sporting nation so whenever anybody does well in any sport, everyone's very good at getting behind them, encouraging, and it's been no different with me. I've had a pretty good start to my professional career and then I've had nothing but support from home. It's been brilliant. I get recognized a little bit more, but nothing changes. People that haven't seen you in a while will say, well done, and then everything goes back to normal. So, yeah, I love going home, I won't be home I think until the end of March, because I have quite a busy schedule ahead, but any chance I get to go home, I really look forward to it.

Q. So there was a time when I think guys your age might have thought, well, gee, I need to pay my dues, I need to sort of learn how everything works out here. But now you have got Jordan who is your on age, winning these big big tournaments. Obviously you weren't too thrown off at the Open Championship coming, doing as well as you did for 54 holes. Do you feel like watching Jordan do what he did specifically last year kind of demystified the whole process of actually winning these things?
PAUL DUNNE: Yeah. Obviously, he's done unbelievable things since he turned pro. He's made some incredible achievements. But Tiger did it before him as well and I think age really isn't an issue in golf. If someone's good enough to shoot scores to win, they will win. If they do it at the right time. So it could be even so with a 14 year old making the cut at the Masters a few years ago. Obviously last year you see Davis Love win on the PGA TOUR again at like 52. So, yeah, that's why the sport's so great. You have no direct opponent like in other sports. No one that will throw you off, you just have to do your own thing. And then at the end of the day if what you do is good enough you'll win, regardless of your age or experience or anything like that. So I think all you have to do is go out and shoot four scores better than everybody else and you win. So, experience obviously helps and it adds to the comfort level when you're out playing, but yeah, I don't think -- I think especially the way it's going, younger people are more prepared to go ahead and compete straight away and we're obviously seeing that. There he's so many people in their 20s up in the top of the World Rankings.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you were near the top-25 line late in Q-School, were you not?
PAUL DUNNE: I was, I don't know exactly what position I was in going into the final round, but I was three inside the number.

Q. What was more nerve wracking, the final round of the Open Championship or Q-School and were there any lessons you learned from the last round of the Open Championship that you applied to Q-School?
PAUL DUNNE: I think since The Open Championship I've just felt more comfortable in situations that I would have got nervous in previously. I don't know exactly why that is, I guess it's being exposed to a big like large atmosphere, a lot of pressure. Nothing else seems quite as bad. But I was definitely more nervous in the Open Championship, but it was a different type of nerves. It was more of an excitable type nerves. Rather than being three inside the number at Q-School you're just trying to keep things safe, not do anything to jeopardize your chances, because it doesn't, at the end of the day it didn't matter if I came 5th or 25th. You're just kind of looking to consolidating your position and getting in the top-25 rather than when I played The Open Championship you're obviously trying to move up leaderboards and be as high up as you can.

AMANDA HERRINGTON: All right, thank you all, and Paul, thank you for joining us today.

PAUL DUNNE: No problem. Thank you.

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