Thursday, 22nd February 2024

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An amateur wins the PGA Tour…after 33 years, Dunlap does it again

The U.S. Professional Golf (PGA) Tour has crowned its first amateur champion in 33 years. Nick Dunlap (USA), 20, the only amateur in the 156-player field at the American Express ($8.4 million purse), outlasted a stellar field of professionals.

Dunlap, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, began the fourth round of the tournament at Pete Dye Stadium Course (par-72, 7187 yards) in California, USA, with a three-stroke lead. He shot a 12-under-par 60 in the third round the day before, tying the all-time PGA Tour amateur one-round record set by Patrick Cantlay (32-USA) in 2011. Dunlap, who was in the championship group on the final day, made his first birdie on the par-5 fifth, but dropped his tee shot on the par-4 seventh into the water for a double bogey. He lost the lead to fellow group member Sam Burns (28-USA).

Dunlap was undeterred, however, and responded with birdies on the eighth (par-5) and 14th (par-4). A birdie at the 16th (par-5) put him back in a share of the lead with Burns. It wasn’t the amateur who couldn’t handle the nerves with a chance to win, but the professional. Burns dropped back-to-back tee shots on the 17th (par-3) and 18th (par-4), dropping to double-bogey on both holes. Dunlap, on the other hand, parred the 17th. On 18, Dunlap was shaky, with his tee shot going into the right rough and his second shot failing to reach the green, but he calmly sank a 1.8-meter par putt at the last to secure a one-stroke victory (final total of 29-under-par 259) without the need for a playoff.

Dunlap became the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event in 33 years since Phil Mickelson (54-USA) in 1991. It is only the third time since 1957 that an amateur has won a PGA Tour event. Because of his amateur status, the $152,000 first-place prize went to runner-up Christian Bezuidenhout (30-South Africa-28 under par). Burns, who was in contention for the title, finished tied for sixth (25-under par).

With this victory, Dunlap will be eligible for PGA Tour membership. At 20 years, 29 days old, Dunlap is the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour in the last 90 years. The 6-foot-3 golfer is ranked No. 3 in the world amateur rankings. Only Dunlap and Tiger Woods (49-USA) have won both the US Amateur and US Junior Amateur.

Growing up, Dunlap’s home was near Greystone Golf and Country Club in Alabama. Dunlap treated the course as a playground, riding his bike there every day, hitting balls all day and leaving when the course closed. As a junior, he was already beating the adult members of the course, causing the adults to complain, and he was even beating the PGA Tour pros who practiced at the same course. At age 12, he shot a 59 in a local tournament and won by 13 strokes. By 15, he was caddying occasionally on the PGA’s secondary tour, carrying a golf bag in the heat and running to the gym to work out after each game. He was so athletic and determined that he also showed talent in baseball and football, according to those who knew him from a young age. “He’s very competitive under pressure,” said his mental coach, Dr. Brett McCabe. Kim Si-woo (29), Lim Sung-jae (26) and Lee Kyung-hoon (33) tied for 25th (19-under par).

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