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Open at Shinnecock: The Jimmy Dunne-Patrick Reed connection

Patrick Reed hits from the 10th fairway during

Patrick Reed hits from the 10th fairway during the first round of The Players Championship on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Seconds after he became the Masters champion, concluding a long day in which most of the crowd had cheered for everybody but him, Patrick Reed was greeted by a friendly soul wearing a green jacket.

“I think I was the second one to congratulate him, after Justine,” Jimmy Dunne said, referring to Reed’s wife. “I could not believe how calm he was. He reached out and got hold of the lapel of my Augusta member’s jacket and said, ‘Dunne-Man, now I have one of these of my own.’ ”

The moment was a joyful grace note for both men, who have become pals in golf. It also was a prelude. Dunne will be among the first to welcome Reed to the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, another club at which he is a member. It is where Dunne was the first to shoot 63. It is where he has loyalty that runs long and deep. It is where his heart is.

“He has told me it is an absolutely great golf course,” Reed said at The Players Championship.

Dunne, in a telephone interview, said, “I told him Shinnecock is the greatest golf course in the world, which I believe.”

The first time Dunne made that proclamation, he was a Babylon teenager in the 1970s, painting houses during summers. He and best buddy Chris Quackenbush had worked on the Shinnecock Hills clubhouse and got to play the hallowed grounds. Dunne was instantly mesmerized.

He went on to a hugely successful career at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, at which he now is senior managing principal. His stature has allowed him to join Shinnecock and other clubs and to receive an annual invitation to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. In 2013, the tournament’s committee put him together with a confident young golfer from Texas who had played at Augusta State.

“They just pair you with somebody and they happened to pair me with the Dunne Man,” Reed said the other day. “I had no clue about him, he really didn’t know much about me. The next thing you know, I was just sitting there and talking with him and he’s like, ‘Oh, do you follow any college teams?’ I said, ‘I’m a huge Notre Dame fan.’ With him being a Notre Dame guy, we’ve kept in touch ever since. We play together all the time.”

Dunne, an alumnus and member of the university’s board of trustees, said they hit it off for reasons beyond the Fighting Irish: “He’s my kind of partner. He’s got a lot of guts, and he putts really well.”

With an emphasis on the former. Anyone familiar with the story of James J. Dunne III knows he has a Masters and PhD in Guts.

He was out of the office, which was on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, on Sept. 11, 2001. His game was in top shape and he was playing in a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier. Someone rushed out onto the course and urgently told him to call home.

Sixty-six of the firm’s employees had died, including his mentor, Herman Sandler, in the terrorist attack. The dead also included Quackenbush, who had been persuaded to join the firm by his old golf and painting buddy. Dunne would eventually be profiled on “60 Minutes” for how he responded in the following days, weeks and months. He saved the company, starting with the instant humane decision to give full benefits to 66 families.

Golf became even more of a refuge for Dunne. He adopted a new custom of writing a bold “Q” on his ball in memory of the friend he had met on the Southward Ho Country Club driving range, with whom he had once tended bar and shared a Manhattan apartment and with whom he teamed to win a Labor Day tournament at Shinnecock.

It was quite poignant and super cool on July 9, 2010, when Dunne looked into the cup after his tee shot on Shinnecock’s famously difficult par-3 11th and saw the “Q.” A hole-in-one hinted this would be a special day. It ended with Dunne finishing with a 7-under-par 63, something no one ever had done there (it has been matched at least twice, once by tour pro Adam Scott, but the club does not publicize records).

That must have been some story to tell Reed. Except . . .

“He didn’t,” said the Masters champion, who had no idea about that round until a reporter asked him about it this week. “I’m pretty sure when the Open gets close, he will let me know.”

How could that not come up? “That was a long time ago,” Dunne said the other day. Nor is he going to volunteer any local advice during Open week. “If he asks, I will tell him, but he has seen my game close-up, so I don’t think he’s going to ask.”

Reed said, “I’ll definitely pick his brain about it.”

The pro will receive hospitality without asking for it, which will be a pleasant contrast to April. The spectators at Augusta, renowned for being sportsmanlike, genteel and warm, gave Reed the coldest of shoulders. They cheered like crazy for Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

Given Long Island’s proven affinity for underdogs, Reed likely will get a much better reception in Southampton. He was soundly cheered at a Knicks game the night after the tournament. He might also have karma: He won The Barclays at Bethpage in 2016. And he likes Shinnecock without ever having seen it.

Dunne’s forte in business is a knack for seeing things before they happen. So, it might be a good omen for Reed and everyone else that he said: “I do think that this is going to be one of the greatest U.S. Opens of all time.”

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