Jimmy Gunn completes journey from oil rigs to major

ALMOST every single performance Jimmy Gunn has produced since he headed to America to try to scale the golfing heights has been greeted with headlines along the lines of him winning a “fistful of dollars” by a fellow Scottish golf scribe.

Jimmy Gunn. Picture: Getty
Jimmy Gunn. Picture: Getty

In truth, the sums in question have been fairly modest as the Dornoch man has chiselled away at the coalface on various circuits, but, with a $9 million prize pot on offer in this week’s US Open, it could certainly be appropriate if he can play in all four rounds at Chambers Bay.

“Jimmy who?” will probably be the response from most people when they see a Saltire beside his name for the season’s second major and that is understandable, given that he is so far down golf’s pecking order that he doesn’t have an official world ranking.

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It’s his major debut and has come at the age of 34. A former oil rig worker, Gunn spent seven years as a caddie at Royal Dornoch, where he is a multiple club champion, before turning professional in 2007 and moving to Arizona.

He qualified last season for the Web.com Tour, the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit but, instead of taking the step up he had been looking for to join Russell Knox and Martin Laird, missing the final round of the Web.Com Tour Qualifying School final stage by a shot, he is back on the third-tier Gateway Tour this year.

“It means everything to be playing my first major,” admitted Gunn, who, having already come through local qualifying, finished 11th at a sectional qualifying event in Memphis, just a stroke behind two-times US Open champion Retief Goosen, but was elevated into the field from the reserve list on Sunday night. “To play in these big events is what I have worked hard for over the years.”

While Chambers Bay isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it has got Gunn licking his lips in anticipation, especially as he reckons he should be well prepared for such a test from cutting his own golfing teeth at the revered Highlands links.

“I love the course,” he added. “It’s super-fast and firm and really long, too.

“The greens are very tricky with a lot of slopes, but you can use the slopes to work the ball in to the pins. It’s very links-style, which I like. A lot of people are going to hate it as good shots can end up in trouble and bad shots can end up good. You are going to have to play smart and be super patient.

“I would say Dornoch has kind of prepared me for this as far as grass, slopes, run-offs etc, but it’s harder and faster than Dornoch has ever been.”

Gunn will have plenty of time to see how his fellow competitors handle some of the challenges on the Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed layout as he is in the last group out today – it also includes Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson – for the first round.

“It’s about taking one shot at a time around here,” he said. “You can’t get ahead of yourself on a course like this. It’s the hardest golf course I have ever played.”