A tearful Nick Dunlap has become the youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 114-years, and also the first amateur in 33-years to taste success with his stunning victory in the American Express Championship at La Quinta in California.
The 20-year-old reigning US Amateur champion, who is still in college in Alabama, withstood the final round challenge from defending champ Sam Burns in posting a closing round 70 to win by a stroke with a 29-under-par tally on the host Pete Dye Stadium course.
As an amateur, Dunlap does not earn prize-money, and as such, the $1.5m first prize cheque will be handed to South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout who signed for a 65 to finish runner-up at 28-under-par.
Dunlap does earn a full two-year PGA Tour card exemption till the end of 2026 and he has 30-days to make the decision if he will turn pro and if he does, then he will be fully exempt from the day he does plus he’ll earn the 500 FedEx Cup points.
As well, if he does turn pro he will be exempt into the remaining ‘Signature Series’ events in 2024.
Dunlap headed into the final round leading by two shots at 27-under and while he posted a double-bogey at the seventh to hand Burns the lead, it was Burns who messed-up in ending his defence with double-bogeys at his closing two holes to finish with a score of 71 for an eventual share of sixth place at 21-under
Dunlap was clearly emotional after holing his winning putt, firstly being embraced by playing partners Justin Thomas and Burns while the tears were really flowing in being greeted by his parents.
Thomas attended the same college at Dunlap and in putting a congratulatory arm around him, Thomas used his cap to block out a prying TV camera, and speak to him for a good few seconds on the 18th green.
“I just felt the script for me today was already written”, said a teary Dunlap.
“I went through today’s last day probably a million times in my mind and it’s never going to go how you plan it, and it didn’t as we saw on my seventh hole, so I am just so happy to be standing here.
“I wanted to give it everything I had whether or not I shoot 65 or 75, I just wanted to give this last round everything.
“My nerves were like everything I have never felt before and I told Sam (Burns) so many times out there today that if was so cool to be out here on the PGA Tour, and to experience all this as an amateur.
“So, if you had of told me come Wednesday that I would have a four-foot putt to win this golf tournament I would not have believed you.
“Coming down that last hole, I was not aware I was only leading by one shot as I thought I had a two-shot lead but then I think I hit somebody with my second shot, so I am sorry for that, but I did get a good break and give myself a good look at the flag.
“Then I have to give my caddie credit as he was so cool all day. He never changed but then I have made a million of those putts before, so I thought to myself that this is just another one.
“The great thing is that I learnt everything today and whether the result had been what I hoped for, I have learned so much today, and I am just so grateful to be here.”
NICK DUNLAP – With his victory inhe American Express Championship
- Becomes first amateur to win on TOUR since Phil Mickelson at 1991 Northern Telecom Open
- At 20 years, 29 days, Dunlap becomes the youngest amateur to win on the PGA TOUR since Chick Evans at the 1910 Western Open (20 years, 1 month, 15 days)
- He joins a group of just eight amateurs to win on PGA Tour
- Now exempt into all 2024 Signature Events (provided he turns pro before those events), the Masters and PGA Championship.
- Dunlap currently has exemptions into the Masters (As the US Amateur champion), U.S. Open and The Open Championship as the winner of 2023 U.S. Amateur. His exemptions into the Masters and The Open are contingent on him remaining amateur, however. But if he were to turn pro now after winning, he would be exempt into the Masters and PGA Championship as a PGA TOUR winner. The U.S. Open allows the U.S. Amateur champion to play in its tournament as a professional.
- Wins a maiden PGA Tour title in just his fifth PGA TOUR start (MC: 2022 U.S. Open, 2023 U.S. Open, 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship & American Express Championship.
- Earns a PGA Tour exemption to the end 2025
- Earns a second exemption into the Masters while is now exempt into the Players Championship and PGA Championship
- Won the 2023 U.S. Amateur and on the winning USA 2023 Walker Cup team
If Dunlap does not accept membership during the 2024 PGA TOUR Season, he has 30 days following the completion of the 2024 PGA TOUR Season to turn pro and take up membership for the 2025 PGA TOUR Season.
- If Dunlap does turn pro and take up membership for the 2025 PGA TOUR Season, he will be exempt for next year’s The Sentry.
- If Dunlap does not accept membership during the 30-day period after the conclusion of the 2024 PGA TOUR Season, he would then have to wait until the conclusion of the 2025 PGA TOUR Season to take up membership, in which case he has 30 days to take up membership for the 2026 PGA TOUR Season.
- Regardless of when Dunlap takes up membership (after this week, next month or next year), it will only run through the 2026 PGA TOUR Season.
- If Dunlap does not turn pro (and take up PGA TOUR membership), he can still participate in Full-Field Events out of the tournament winners category. He will be subject to non-member regulations (i.e. he can only compete in a maximum of 12 tournaments), however.
- Even though PGA TOUR winners are exempt into all Signature Events for the remainder of the season, the Signature Events are limited to PGA TOUR members so Dunlap would not be able to participate before turning pro and taking up PGA TOUR membership.