Top-ranked amateur announces surprising PGA Tour decision

gordon sargent hits approach shot at walker cup

Gordon Sargent is the top-ranked amateur in the world.

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If you think the internet generation isn’t any good with delayed gratification, well, you should meet Gordon Sargent.

Sargent is one of the best junior golfers in the world — a lit-fuse of ball-striking skill and ridiculous length in a still-growing body. He is the world’s No. 1 ranked amateur, and he has been anointed to a life of PGA Tour stardom and big-money paychecks for as long as he’s been on the collegiate golf scene. He finished T39 at the U.S. Open last summer just two weeks after his 20th birthday — good enough for low amateur status and also the raised eyebrows of a legion of Tour pros competing in the toughest event of the season. He played so well as a sophomore as Vandy that he was awarded full-time PGA Tour status last fall, eight months before the completion of his junior season.

Some day, you’ll see Gordon Sargent competing on the fairways of the PGA Tour for millions. And that’s the funny part: He’s not going. At least not yet.

On Thursday morning, the 20-year-old star announced that he will return to Vanderbilt for his senior season in 2024-25 instead of opting into his membership on the PGA Tour, a surprise decision that will prolong his amateur career by another year.

“Was kind of hoping a decision would come clear and obviously there’s not going to be a perfect answer,” Sargent told Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. “But I was weighing my options and I mean, after just playing a few college events in the spring, I think you really appreciate how much you enjoy college golf. After reviewing with my parents, coaches and team-wise, it just kind of seemed like it was the best thing for me. I could stay in Nashville and continue to get better.”

The decision is a momentous one for Sargent, who will delay his Tour career by at least another 18 months. The riches of Tour life are as considerable as they are alluring, as fellow 20-year-old wunderkind Nick Dunlap already has learned. Dunlap, who turned pro after winning on the Tour as an amateur in January, has lived a full life on golf’s top shelf this year while Sargent has competed in the collegiate ranks. But the world of NIL has changed the calculus for collegiate stars like Dunlap and Sargent, both of whom have played well enough to earn sponsorship money from a golf world hungry for their arrivals.

In an ironic twist, tapping into NIL riches has proven motivating for athletes to prolong their collegiate careers — as the college basketball world witnessed firsthand with star guard Caitlin Clark’s decision to stay at Iowa for her senior season. The college world may never offer more money than the pro ranks, but it offers enough for many players to consider extending their college careers to better prepare for the pros.

Sargent is only the latest player to fall into this category, and he surely won’t be the last. And the really good news is that, unlike Clark, Sargent bears less of the risk of injury derailing his professional prospects. As a result of his accelerated status in the PGA Tour University program, Sargent is guaranteed 18 months of Tour membership irrespective of what happens during the remainder of his junior and senior seasons.

“Knowing there’s a PGA Tour card still waiting for you, it gives you a lot of freedom if you need to make some changes and stuff,” Sargent said. “Then off the golf course, [the goal is] just continue to mature as a person and just better prepare myself for the future.”

No, he will not be on the Tour for quite a while. But Gordon Sargent’s time is coming. And perhaps most impressive, he’s happy to wait for it.

James Colgan Editor

James Colgan is a news and features editor at GOLF, writing stories for the website and magazine. He manages the Hot Mic, GOLF’s media vertical, and utilizes his on-camera experience across the brand’s platforms. Prior to joining GOLF, James graduated from Syracuse University, during which time he was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from. He can be reached at