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Revisiting Nick Dunlap’s Historic Win, and Different Novice Golfers Who Received PGA Occasions

Revisiting Nick Dunlap’s Historic Win, and Different Novice Golfers Who Received PGA Occasions

Nick Dunlap, the latest name in the rare league of amateur golfers who have won events on the PGA Tour, is a thoroughbred. The 20-year-old has created a space that may take time to fill as the PGA Tour renews its wait for the next amateur golfer to win on Tour.

The reigning US Amateur champion won The American Express on January 21, 2024, and with it rolled out a list of achievements that will inspire amateur golfers eyeing a spot on the PGA Tour, professional golf’s biggest and toughest workspace. The Tour kicked off on January 4 with its first event in Maui and concludes on September 1.

What a week it was that propelled the University of Alabama second-year student into a group that is rare and coveted. All it takes is a week to change life on and off the golf course, so the saying goes. For Dunlap, the final up-and-down par putt on the 18th hole of the La Quinta did not make him eligible for the USD 1.5 million top cheque — his amateur status prevents him from accepting prize money — but the solitary-shot win did make us reach out for the record books to understand the enormity of Dunlap’s feat of breaking into the elite league of amateur golfers who have won PGA Tour events.

nick dunlap amateur golfers who won pga events
Nick Dunlap of the United States hits a tee shot on the 18th hole during the final round of The American Express at Pete Dye Stadium Course on January 21, 2024 in La Quinta, California. (Image: Sean M. Haffey/ Getty Images)

Amid the moist eyes and clapping palms around the 18th green, Dunlap’s winning score of 29-under 259 was a rare negation of the belief that the shift from amateur golf to professional golf is a leap of faith. In the span of four days, Dunlap leapfrogged 4061 spots to sit 68th on the Official World Golf Ranking after Sunday’s physically and emotionally draining finale.

What’s next for Nick Dunlap, the latest entrant to the ranks of amateur golfers who have won PGA Tour events?

The strain is apparent as Dunlap chose to withdraw from this week’s Farmers Insurance Open — happening from January 24 to 27 — to be with loved ones. But as he gets ready for the next assault at the pecking order of the PGA Tour and world golf, the man and his family will probably reflect on his historic win and all the events of the past week. The recollections far outweigh the 500 FedEx Cup points Dunlap missed out on along with the top prize purse, which went to second-placed Christiaan Bezuindenhout.

In becoming the youngest among the amateur golfers who have won PGA Tour events since 1910 and the first to pull it off since Phil Mickelson’s amateur win in 1991, Dunlap also checked a box, among several others, that placed him alongside Tiger Woods as an US Junior Amateur and US Amateur champion to post a win.

As the newest addition among amateur golfers who won PGA Tour events, Dunlap has a full status till the end of the 2026 season, guaranteed starts in all Signature events, and The Players Championship.

As the reigning US Amateur champion, Dunlap is exempt for The Masters, US Open, and The Open and PGA Championship. Should he turn professional, he will be exempt for The Masters, US Open and The Open as a PGA Tour winner.

As he takes stock, Dunlap is not to be hurried into a decision. Should he opt not to turn professional and accept PGA Tour membership, he can still compete in the full-field events as a tournament winner and play under non-member regulations.
“That’s something it doesn’t just affect me, it affects a lot of people, coach back there and my teammates, and it’s a conversation I need to have with a lot of people before I make that decision,” he said.

Nick Dunlap reflects on his impressive achievement

An amateur getting into a PGA Tour event on a sponsor’s exemption isn’t new, the outcome was. But it could have gone the other way as well. Faced with a six-foot putt for par to deny Christiaan Bezuindenhout, Dunlap was driven by his caddie’s assurance that the up and down was one even his mother would sink. An assured Dunlap closed the week.

“It’s everything that I dreamed of and just to have a chance on the last hole to win a PGA Tour event is really special. I was so nervous (on the last hole). It’s a really cool spot to be in as an amateur, and just to be here and be given the opportunity to play, and I don’t ever want to forget,” said Dunlap.

nick dunlap amateur golfers who won pga events
Nick Dunlap poses for a photo with the trophy after winning The American Express at Pete Dye Stadium Course on January 21, which makes him the latest name in the ranks of amateur golfers to win PGA Tour events (Image: Orlando Ramirez/ Getty Images)

Where he was coming from, vis-à-vis his starts on the PGA Tour, stems from the past. The American Express was Dunlap’s fourth start on Tour, and the previous three occasions (2022 US Open, 2023 US Open, 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship) were about missing the cut but coming away with key learnings.

Dunlap rose this time in a way that made him the first amateur to make cut at The American Express en-route the career-changing win.

In celebrating Dunlap’s feat of becoming the latest in the list of amateur golfers who have won PGA Tour events, it is only appropriate to travel back in time and acknowledge the seven other names who raised the bar many times with similar accomplishments.

Amateur golfers who won PGA Tour Events

Cary Middlecoff

cary middlecoff - amateur golfers who won pga events
Cary Middlecoff adds up his scorecard following his second round completion of the Keller Golf Course during the 1954 U.S. Open. Middlecoff shared an early second place with Jack Burke after 36 holes. (Image: Bettmann/ Getty Images)

A dentist by training in the US Army, Cary Middlecoff became a trendsetter by becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour at the 1945 North & South Championship. Middlecoff’s father wasn’t convinced when his son quit to turn professional in 1947, but he ended up with 39 wins on Tour, including The Masters.

Fred Haas

fred haas - amateur golfers who won pga events
Fred Haas of the USA during practice for the Ryder Cup at Wentworth. (Image: Barratts/ PA Images via Getty Images)

The same year as Middlecoff’s high, Fred Haas became the second amateur to triumph on the PGA Tour at the Memphis Invitational. As a seven-time winner on Tour, he also represented the US at the Ryder Cup.

Frank Stranahan

frank stranahan - amateur golfers who won pga events
Frank Stranahan hits a tee shot. (Image: PGA of America via Getty Images)

The strongman from Toledo, Ohio, Frank Stranahan was a man of many talents, excelling in powerlifting before showing his prowess in golf. As an amateur, he won the 1945 Durham War Bond Tournament and 1948 Miami Open.

Gene Littler

Gene Littler - amateur golfers who won pga events
Gene Littler at the 1994 GTE Suncoast Classic. (Image: PGA Tour Archive/ Getty Images)

World Golf Hall of Fame member, Gene Littler won the 1954 San Diego Open as an amateur, and went on to post 28 wins as a pro on the PGA Tour.

Doug Sanders

Doug Sanders - amateur golfers who won pga events
Doug Sanders at the 1983 PGA Tour. (Image: PGA Tour Archive via Getty Images)

In a PGA Tour career that spanned 513 events, Doug Sanders began his winning journey as an amateur. The 1956 Canadian Open signalled a star was born, and Sanders went on to win many more times, and finished with another 19 titles and four runner-up finishes in Majors.

Scott Verplank

Scott Verplank - amateur golfers who won pga events
Scott Verplank of the United States plays his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the Sanford International at Minnehaha Country Club on September 15, 2023 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Image: David Berding/ Getty Images)

Had it not been for a spate of injuries, Scott Verplank could have won more than his five wins on the PGA Tour. The first of the series came as an amateur at the 1985 Western Open. The final day went into a playoff, and Verplank beat Jim Thorpe on the second extra hole.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson - amateur golfers who won pga events
Phil Mickelson of HyFlyers GC hits his shot from the 17th tee during Day Two of the LIV Golf Invitational – Miami at Trump National Doral Miami on October 21, 2023 in Doral, Florida. (Image: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

‘Lefty’, as he came to be known on Tour for being right-handed in everything else save golf, Phil Mickelson was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour before Nick Dunlap. The year was 1991, and Mickelson’s turf was the Northern Telecom Open. Not known then, it was the start of a career that has seen Mickelson notch 45 wins on the PGA Tour, 4 international titles, and there is no slowing down as ‘Lefty’ is among the headlines coming out of LIV Golf.

Amateur golfers to win on other major Tours

DP World Tour (previously European Tour)

  • Pablo Martin Benavides (2007, Estoril Open de Portugal)
  • Danny Lee (2009, Johnnie Walker Classic)
  • Shane Lowry (2009, Irish Open)

LPGA

  • Polly Riley (1950, Tampa Open)
  • Pat O’Sullivan (1951, Titleholders Championship)
  • Catherine Lacoste (1967, US Women’s Open)
  • JoAnne Carner (1969, Burdine’s Invitational)
  • Lydia Ko (2012, CN Canadian Women’s Open)
  • Lydia Ko (2013, CN Canadian Women’s Open)

(Main and featured images: Orlando Ramirez/ Getty Images)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

See Also

– Has an amateur ever won a PGA Tour event?

Since 1945, the PGA Tour has seen eight amateur winners. Nick Dunlap is the latest golfer to accomplish the feat, doing so at the 2024 American Express.

– What happens when an amateur wins a PGA Tour event?

As per the regulations of the PGA Tour, a golfer who competes as an amateur is not eligible to receive prize money and cannot turn professional during the period of play.

– Has an amateur golfer ever won The Masters?

No amateur golfer has ever won the Masters Tournament.

– Did Nick Dunlap get money for winning The American Express?

Despite winning, Nick Dunlap’s status as an amateur golfer prevented him from receiving prize money in the PGA Tour event. Instead, the prize money went to Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who came second.

– Who was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour?

The last amateur to win on the PGA Tour was Phil Mickelson, who won the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.



Source: Prestige Online

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