Top amateur Nick Dunlap turns pro after historic PGA Tour victory

nick dunlap smiles at press conference at the american express

Nick Dunlap turned pro on Thursday, just days after his stunning victory at the American Express.

Getty Images/Orlando Ramirez

The PGA Tour is one generational talent stronger.

Nick Dunlap, the 20-year-old college sophomore who became a sensation over the weekend as the first amateur PGA Tour winner in 33 years, announced Thursday that he is turning professional. Dunlap will play his professional golf on the PGA Tour, where he earned an exemption through 2026 and entrance into each of the high-money, limited-field “signature events” in 2024 with his victory on Sunday.

“At this time, I want to announce that I am turning professional, I am accepting my PGA Tour membership,” Dunlap said to raucous applause at a University of Alabama press conference on Thursday morning. “I’m going to debut at the AT&T Pebble-Beach Pro-Am.”

Dunlap enters the PGA Tour after an amateur career that placed him on a historic trajectory. He became the first player since Tiger Woods to win both the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Amateur championships, and raised eyebrows when he played his way into the U.S. Open in 2023 in a Columbus qualifier that annually features scores of pros fresh off the Memorial Tournament. Of course, those plaudits pale in comparison to last Sunday’s achievement, when Dunlap stunned the field in Palm Springs to claim the first win by an amateur on the PGA Tour since Phil Mickelson’s victory in Tucson in 1991.

Pro golf wasn’t on Dunlap’s radar until the last few days, he said, but the prodigious benefits offered by a PGA Tour victory proved too tantalizing to pass up. Dunlap’s amateur status meant he did not accept the $1.5 million winner’s check at the American Express, but his pending Tour membership meant the opportunity to earn several times that sum throughout the upcoming season.

“I had no idea [I was going to turn professional now],” he said. “It’s a week today that the first round at the American Express started, and a week ago if you’d have told me that I would have the opportunity to live out my dream as a 20-year-old, it’s pretty surreal, but it’s also scary.”

After the victory, he elected to withdraw from this week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and went back to Alabama (where he attends school and is from) to discuss his future with his teammates and family. After a few days of talks, he emerged on Thursday with his mind made: he was turning pro.

“It was the easiest/hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” he said. “It was clear that I did want to play professional golf and it was a golden opportunity to do that. I was given a really cool opportunity and I wanted to try to chase that.”

His decision to turn pro in January will mean passing up on one of golf’s great amateur traditions: sleeping in the Crow’s Nest at Augusta National during Masters week. But it will also grant him the opportunity to compete in each of the Tour’s early season slate of big-money events, including the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Genesis Invitational, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Players Championship. Fortunately, turning pro will not affect his major championship eligibility: his victories at both the American Express and U.S. Amateur guarantee him invites at each of the majors through the remainder of the year.

The hard part for Dunlap will be managing expectations after an amateur career that placed him firmly in the territory of greats like Woods and Mickelson. For Dunlap, though, that doesn’t seem to be much of a concern.

“That’s who I grew up watching. If you grew up playing golf, you always wanted to be like Tiger or Phil,” he said. “To be compared to them is why I practiced and work out and do everything that I do, to be on that level and to be on that stage.”

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