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Nick Dunlap wins a tournament on the PGA Tour for the first time in his 33 years as an amateur



Nick Dunlap wins a tournament on the PGA Tour for the first time in his 33 years as an amateur

On Sunday, Nick Dunlap, a 20-year-old University of Alabama sophomore, accomplished a historic first. After Phil Mickelson’s victory 33 years prior, Dunlap became the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour. In the final round on Sunday, Dunlap not only maintained a lead but also rallied from behind to win in La Quinta, California, with a final score of 29-under.

On the strength of his third-round 60—the lowest amateur score in a PGA Tour event since Patrick Cantlay accomplished the same feat in 2001—Dunlap started the day three strokes ahead of the field. However, Dunlap gave up the entire lead following a disastrous double-bogey on the seventh. After that, he changed his approach and stayed steady for the rest of the round. Dunlap then pounced to take a two-shot lead into the 18th hole when leader Sam Burns mishit his tee shot.

Dunlap’s tee shot on the eighteenth hole drifted right and into the gallery. Burns ended his tournament lead after 70 holes when he dunk his second consecutive tee shot. Christiaan Bezuidenhout shot ahead of them, holing a long birdie to get himself to 28-under, setting up a playoff if Dunlap failed to make the par.

Dunlap’s approach again drifted right from an uphill lie out of the rough, but it was able to roll down onto the green’s fringe. He had a mixed bag of chances to win the game outright and escape the playoffs as a result. He made a terrifying 5-foot, 9-inch putt to win after his elegant approach to the green. Before the putt even dropped, he screamed with delight as he drained it with authority.

“It’s so cool,” Dunlap said afterward. “I told Sam numerous times, like, it is so cool to be out here and experience this as an amateur. Whether I had made that or missed that, if you would have told me that, you know, come Wednesday night I would have a putt to win this golf tournament, I wouldn’t believe you.”

With tears in his eyes, Dunlap left the golf course to give his family and his college coach hugs.

Dunlap’s triumph is a welcome breath of fresh air for Alabama sports these days. During Dunlap’s round, former Alabama football head coach Nick Saban—who unexpectedly announced his retirement earlier this month—called into the Golf Channel broadcast and complimented the sophomore’s poise and steadiness.

Finishing solo in second place, Bezuidenhout took home the $1.5 million prize that Dunlap was unable to win as an amateur. At 27-under, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Kevin Yu, all alumni of Alabama, tied for third place.

Since Tiger Woods in 1996, Dunlap is the first defending U.S. Amateur champion to win on the Tour. Dunlap’s victory gives him entries into the Masters, PGA Championship, Players Championship, and most importantly, a two-year exemption onto the PGA Tour, should he decide to turn pro. He’s going to have to make a big decision soon.

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