Ryan Dunn faltered coming home in 2018.
He three-putted on the 18th hole at Rivershore Golf Links to shoot 63, one stroke shy of the course record.
“I honestly thought I would never touch it again,” Dunn said.
He thought wrong.
The chance to vanquish The Ghost of Three Jacks Past materialized last week.
With three holes to play on the men’s night loop, the 39-year-old finance manager from Kamloops knew exactly where he stood — three straight birdies to get in with 62.
“You can tie it, fun thought, but whatever,” said Dunn, a 27-year Rivershore member who started his round on the 10th hole and carded a sizzling 32 on the track’s back nine holes.
“Then I hit it on seven to about 12 feet. Made the putt. The boys erupt.”
Playing partners Chase Broadfoot, Mikey Wheeler-Johnson and Riley Kinchella — the aforementioned eruptors — felt tension build after the birdie on Hole 7, the par-3 170-yarder.
“We were keeping our cool in front of Dunner because we didn’t want him to get too excited or put any unnecessary pressure on him,” Wheeler-Johnson said.
“You can get in your own head and blow it left, right and centre. I was nervous for him.”
A gallery started to build on the clubhouse patio — Dunner might have something special going, so bring your drinks to the deck.
“That’s kind of when guys around the course were getting word of what was going on,” Dunn said. “You could tell all the boys were already on their phones. You could feel it.”
The group was joined on the eighth tee by another foursome, also on its 17th hole of the day, the eightsome formed to expedite the pace of a lagging round.
“On eight, I’m just like, ’Wait a second. If you can eagle, now you can really have a chance at it,’” said Dunn, playing in near optimal conditions on a warm evening at Rivershore, with very little wind, the greens fast but true.
Hole 8 is a par-5, 491-yarder.
“Sure enough, I bomb a drive, hit a 4-iron on the screws to, like, three feet,” Dunn said. “Of course, everybody is going crazy. At that point, it was a little shakier and nervy for sure. I made the putt and kind of quickly turned around in my head and said, ’OK, you’ve been here before. You can do this.’”
Text messages quickly reached patrons on patio perch — birdie the last hole for the unofficial course record.
A self-administered pep talk preceded his tee shot on the par-4 415-yard ninth, the home hole for Dunn and seven playing partners doing their best to stay out of his way.
“Just be in this moment,” Dunn said, repeating his internal speech for KTW. “Have fun with it. Everybody wants to see you do this, so let’s get it over with kind of thing.”
He striped his tee shot and stuck a gap wedge to about three feet.
“It’s not even a knee-knocker at that point,” Wheeler-Johnson said, noting Dunn missed a few makeable putts earlier in the round. “It’s taking everything you’ve got not to be shaking up there. When I took my camera to film him, I made sure he didn’t see me. I didn’t want to be in his face, like, ‘Dunner, this is for the record!’
“He told himself, ‘This is for the boys.’ That was his motivation.”
The gallery fell silent while Dunn addressed the putt, which he said moved about four or five inches from his left to his right.
This is how he remembers it: “OK, man. You’re looking at the hole. Just bury it. It’s not a big deal. I didn’t even think miss. It was definitely not an easy putt. I didn’t overstudy. There was no question in my mind. I was not missing that putt. It was one of the more confident things I’ve ever done.”
Down it went for an unofficial course record 61, thanks in part to an otherworldly 29 on the par-36, front nine holes, his back nine on the day.
“It was just a cool moment to have everybody around, cheering you on, people running out to give you hugs and high fives,” said Dunn, who may never stop talking about the birdie-eagle-birdie finish.
Patrick Murphy of Crossfield, Alta., set the Rivershore course record in July of 2018, firing a 62 in the opening round of the B.C. Amateur Championship.
Officially, he still holds it.
“He [Dunn] was playing from the whites, but I wouldn’t hold that against the course-record holder because it’s men’s night and that’s where we make them play,” Rivershore Golf Links general manager Kevin Oates said.
“I would consider it an unofficial record because it was not in a sanctioned tournament setting. Our men’s night would be on the fringes of what a tournament round would be. Official or unofficial, it’s pretty frickin’ amazing.”
The hero of the night — a proven closer no longer haunted by ghosts — soaked in the adulation in the clubhouse after the round, a jolly evening at the 19th hole.
Dunn’s truck spent the night in the course parking lot beside the Thompson River, while, back home, he dreamt of 61.
“The cool part about this whole entire thing is with COVID and no sports and everything that everybody is going through in their daily lifestyle — everybody was smiling. Everybody had something to talk about,” Dunn said.
“I don’t know how many texts and calls I’ve received. It’s just motivating and good to hear so many people being happy again.”