Dunne to McIlroy: “Sometimes you’ve got 280 over water & you just have to go for it”

Bernie McGuire

Jimmy Dunne with Rory McIlroy in St Andrews, Scotland in 2022 (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

In a 3,700 word Rory McIlroy pre-RBC Canadian Open transcript, apart from two to three questions only about the tournament, there were 14 words that made for a most interesting golfing analogy.

The words were from Jimmy Dunne, a PGA Tour board member and also the boss at the ultra-exclusive Seminole Golf Club that’s located just a short drive south along Florida highway 1A1 from McIlroy’s palatial abode.

Dunne’s built a multi-million dollar career advising on some of the biggest mergers and acquisitions in the American financial industry but then he’s also now featuring in worldwide golfing headlines, the like we’ve been reading these past two days.


By way of background, Dunne was one of the founders of Sandler O’Neill & Partners, helping build it into the largest independent full-service investment banking firm focused on the financial services sector.

Nowadays, Dunne is the vice chairman and senior managing principal of Piper Sandler, as Sandler O’Neill was acquired by Piper Jaffray in 2020, though he continues to advise on a wide variety of M & A transactions, among them TD Ameritrade’s merger with Charles Schwab.

What is a little-known fact about Dunne is that on September 11th, 2001, Dunne was striving to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and was out of the Sandler O’Neill offices when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and brought down the twin towers.

Sixty-six of Dunne’s working colleagues were killed that infamous day, known forever as ‘9/11’.

A year ago, Dunne agreed to join the PGA Tour board of directors as an independent director, and soon after his appointment, he was approached by Sports Illustrated and one question concerned the Saudi-backed LIV Golf and, of course, his own thoughts on the Saudi involvement given the tragic events of some 20-years earlier.

Dunne’s response was that he wouldn’t be the “fairest judge of Saudi involvement” in golf after losing so many friends on 9/11. So, fast forward to 6.3Oam Tuesday morning (Local Canada time) and it’s Dunne on the phone to McIlroy.

During the U.S. Open a year ago, Jimmy Dunne torched LIV, its existence and even its chairman. A year later? Jay Monahan said Dunne more or less brokered the deal to merge the PIF and the PGA Tour.

Dunne had texted McIlroy the night before to say if he could speak to him ahead of the shock news that would greet the sports world mid-morning Tuesday, and with Dunne no doubt explaining his part in working with the Saudi’s in brokering a deal that brought an end to war between the PGA and DP World Tours, and LIV Golf.

“Yeah, so I got a text message on Monday night from Jimmy Dunne, saying, ‘Hey can I give you a call in the morning’. So I said sure. Jimmy rang me at about 6:30 yesterday morning. We had a chat. Took me through the news. Took me through the deal, structure of the deal. What it meant for us. What it meant for the DP World Tour,” said McIlroy.

“So, yeah, I learned about it pretty much at the same time everyone else did. And, yeah, it was a surprise. I knew there had been discussions going on in the background. I knew that lines of communication had been opened up. I obviously didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did. But I really think that, you know, from what I gather, the TOUR felt they were in a real position of strength coming off of the back of the DP World Tour winning their legal case in London. It sort of weakened the other side’s position.”

And in bringing McIlroy up-to-date about what was to be released to the world in a few hours time, Dunne used a golfing analogy, his phrase implying the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour really had no option of laying-up on this deal, but all they could do, as Dunne says, was ‘go for it’.

“The way Jimmy described the deal was: ‘Rory, sometimes you got 280 over water, you just got to go for it’.

“And that’s what they did. I think ultimately, when I try to remove myself from the situation and I look at the bigger picture and I look at 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be, it’s going to be good for the game of professional golf. I think it secures the — it unifies it and it secures its financial future.”

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