Amateur Golfer Nick Dunlap Makes History, Beating the Pros

Amateur Golfer Nick Dunlap Makes History, Beating the Pros January 21, 2024


Twenty-year old Nick Dunlap, a college golfer at the University of Alabama, began this day with a three-stroke lead in the PGA Tour’s American Express in Palm Desert, California, the Tour’s second tournament of the year. Playing in the last pairing with stars Justin Thomas and Sam Burns, Nick Dunlap hung on like a cool veteran under intense pressure to win by one stroke to make golfing history. South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout came from behind to finish alone at second place.

The last time an amateur golfer won on the PGA Tour was by young hotshot Lefty–Phil Mickelson–while a college golfer at the Arizona State University. It was in 1991, thirty-three years ago. Dunlap set multiple records with this win, including beating the tournament course record by one stroke with a 29-under par 259 total for four rounds. Nick was 20 years old and 29 days today. Is that some kind of omen?

Nick had shot a blistering 12-under par 60 yesterday to thrust himself into the limelight and thereby put him into the pressure cooker. But he revealed in his televised interview speech at the end of the day that he had a motto that carried him through–“pressure is a privilege.” Impressive!

Yet, the young Dunlap got off to a bit of a shaky start today with a double bogey on the 4th hole to lose his lead. But he immediately bounced right back with a birdie on the next hole. In the closing holes today there was plenty of drama, mostly between Dunlap and Burns who were tied or separated by one stroke. Then, five-time PGA Tour winner Sam Burns plunked his tee shot into the water on each of the last two holes to take two double bogeys and seemingly give Nick Dunlap the tournament win.

At least, that’s what Nick thought when he contemplated his second shot from the right rough on the par four 18th hole. He had a 180-yard blind shot to the green due to a mound blocking his vision. The elongated 18th green hugs a watery grave on the left. So, under the circumstances, it was a dangerous shot to go for the green. He thought he had a two stroke lead, with Burns now out of contention to win. Nick didn’t know that Bezuidenhout, playing in front of him, had birdied that last hole so that Nick now had only a one stroke lead. If I had been in his position, I would have given serious consideration to not going for the green and therefore only hitting the ball down the fairway in front of the green to avoid the water. But Nick played a six iron toward the right side of the green. The ball went further right than he planned, but he got fortunate kick so that the ball finished on green grass. He then pitched to six feet and made the putt right in the middle of the hole for a one stroke victory.

[Sam Burns and Justin Thomas tied for 6th with two others. Sam Burns is a member of the PGA Tour Bible Study.]

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