Friday, February 23, 2024

Alabama Student Nick Dunlap Denied $1.5M PGA Tour Prize

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On Sunday, January 21, 2024, Nick Dunlap, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama, achieved a remarkable feat by winning the American Express Tournament at the PGA West golf course in California. His final score of -29 edged out South African pro Christiaan Bezuidenhout by one stroke and left tour favorites Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas trailing by two strokes.

Dunlap’s victory, coupled with the fact that he brought his homework to the event, created a buzz around this rising golf sensation. However, a surprising twist awaits—despite winning, Dunlap cannot claim the $1.5 million prize due to his status as an “amateur” golfer in this PGA-sanctioned event.

Nick Dunlap
Nick Dunlap

So, who is Nick Dunlap? In the realm of amateur golf, he’s a standout. Dunlap holds the distinction of being one of only two individuals ever to win both the US Amateur Championship (2023) and the Junior Amateur Championship (2021), the other being the legendary Tiger Woods. His win at the American Express Tournament also makes him the first amateur to secure a tour event victory since Phil Mickelson in 1991.

Dunlap’s golfing prowess extends beyond his amateur achievements. In 2023, he qualified for the US Open, and during his first full season with Alabama, he played 37 rounds, recording even or under par scores in 26 of them—tying for the second-most in a single season in Alabama history. His dominance continued into the 2023 fall season, where every one of his eight rounds was even or under par.

The recent tournament win has significant implications for Dunlap’s amateur status. With this victory, he can officially turn professional anytime through the 2026 season. Should he decide to delay his pro career and complete another year or two of school, Dunlap has 30 days after the conclusion of the 2024 season to declare himself a pro for 2025, with a similar rule applying for the 2026 season.

Despite the allure of the professional circuit, Dunlap’s uncertain future was revealed in his post-win interview with PGA Tour Radio. The finance major, who made the honor roll in 2023, expressed the decision’s complexity, stating, “That’s a decision that’s not just about me. It affects a lot of people, and obviously, I’m going to try to enjoy this.”

Contrary to expectations, Dunlap won’t be pocketing the $1.5 million prize money from the American Express Tournament. Instead, the winnings go to second-place finisher Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Additionally, as an amateur, Dunlap doesn’t receive the 500 FedEx Cup points that typically accompany a tournament victory.

Reactions to Dunlap’s win were overwhelmingly positive. Christiaan Bezuidenhout praised Dunlap as “a hell of a player” and expressed his hope for Dunlap’s swift transition to the PGA Tour, eager to play alongside him again.

In the aftermath of this historic win, Nick Dunlap’s future in golf remains uncertain, leaving fans and competitors alike eagerly anticipating his next move.

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