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Amateur golfer beats several pros at PGA event, but can’t collect winnings

On Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, 20-year-old Nick Dunlap won the American Express Tournament at the PGA West golf course in California. Dunlap won the event with a final score of -29 – one stroke better than second-place Christiaan Bezuidenhout, a South African pro, and two strokes ahead of tour favorites like Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas.

This was a momentous occasion for Dunlap, who is still a sophomore at the University of Alabama. He even brought some of his homework with him to California while he played in this event. No one ever would have thought someone like him could have beaten out the seasoned PGA Tour veterans in attendance and claim the $1.5 million prize.

Well, he won’t be able to.

Despite winning the event, Dunlap’s status as an ‘amateur’ golfer prevents him from taking home the prize money from this PGA-sanctioned event.

Who is Nick Dunlap?

In amateur golf, Dunlap is the man. He’s one of only two people ever to win both the US Amateur Championship (2023) and the Junior Amateur Championship (2021). The other person? Tiger Woods.

Dunlap’s victory at the American Express Tournament also makes him the first amateur to win a tour event since Phil Mickelson in 1991. Any time a golfer finds themselves listed next to Woods and Mickelson, they are doing something right.

Currently a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Dunlap has a resume longer than most Walgreens receipts, and that’s saying something.

In 2023, he qualified for the US Open. In his first full season with Alabama, Dunlap played 37 rounds. He shot even or under par in 26 of them, tied for the second-most in a single season in Alabama history. During the 2023 fall season, every single one of his eight rounds was even or under par.

Essentially, if there’s an amateur tournament, Dunlap has probably won it at this point. Regardless, his status as an amateur may not last much longer, especially now that he’s realized he’s missing out on $1.5 million.

What does this tournament win mean for his amateur status?

With his win in this event, Dunlap can officially turn pro at any point up through to the 2026 season. Should Dunlap decide he wants to finish another year of school or two before joining the PGA Tour, Dunlap would have 30 days after the end of the 2024 season to declare himself a pro for 2025. The same rule applies for the 2026 season.

Regardless of whether or not Dunlap decides to turn pro, Dunlap will still get to chance to compete in the Masters, US Open, and British Open as the US Amateur champion. If Dunlap does decide to go pro, he’ll have access to the Masters and US Open as well as seven other signature events on the tour.

Dunlap is a finance major and was a member of the honor roll in 2023. Perhaps he will look to finish his degree before deciding to turn pro. After his win, Dunlap told PGA Tour Radio that he was unsure about his future. ‘That’s a decision that’s not just about me,’ said Dunlap. ‘It affects a lot of people, and obviously, I’m going to try to enjoy this.’

Does Dunlap really not get the money?

Unfortunately, Dunlap will not touch the $1.5 million he won at the American Express Tournament. Instead, the prize money went to second-place Christiaan Bezuidenhout. He also does not receive the 500 FedEx Cup points that come with the tournament victory, but that was a given since he isn’t even classified as a competitor for that title.

Reactions to Dunlap winning the American Express Tournament

After the tournament, Christiaan Bezuidenhout talked to reporters, referring to Dunlap as ‘a hell of a player.’ Bezuidenhout gave Dunlap tons of praise throughout the interview and even acknowledged his desire to play with him again in the near future, ‘Hopefully, he can be out on the PGA Tour soon, and we all can get to play with him.’

Here are some of the other best reactions from Dunlap’s win.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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