Skip to content

A new star shines on the PGA Tour

Bruce Penton looks at Nick Dunlap and his fledging PGA career
bruce penton sports

Twenty-year-old Nick Dunlap has joined the youth brigade that has guaranteed the PGA Tour will continue to be the only golf tour that really matters. Of late, youngsters like Colin Morikawa (26), Victor Hovland (26) Sahith Theegala (26), Cameron Young (26), Ludvig Aberg (24), Akshay Bhatia (21)  and Tom Kim (21) have begun to dominate on the PGA Tour and now it appears as if Dunlap may be better than them all.

Dunlap did something in late January that no one has done in 33 years — win on the PGA Tour while still an amateur. The last one to accomplish that was Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Tucson Open.

The reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Dunlap is the only golfer to have won the U.S. Junior, the U.S. Amateur and a PGA Tour event at age 20 or younger. Tiger Woods, also a Junior and Amateur champ, was 21 when he won his first Tour event.

Dunlap, a sophomore at the University of Alabama, shot round of 64-65-60 to take a thee-shot lead into the final round of the American Express in Palm Springs, and the golf world waited for him to shoot a mid- to high-70s round over the final 18 holes and finish tied for 32nd or so.

It didn’t happen. Joseph Lasagna, writing on The Fried Egg website, said “When a player doesn’t belong in the final group of a golf tournament, they tend to unravel. Once the unravelling begins, the wheels seldomly get back on the track. That’s what happens when a player doesn’t have the game to withstand the pressure of a final group on the precipice of a life-changing accomplishment.”

Dunlap did experience an unravelling. It happened on the seventh hole of the Stadium Course at LaQuinta, where he made a double bogey to lose his lead to a hard-charging Sam Burns. But he played the final 11 holes in three under par and when his chasers unravelled a bit themselves, he needed a seven-foot putt on the 18th hole to win. He made no mistake. A golfer who once shot a 59 at age 12, and owns a 30-2 match play record in major amateur events eschewed a $1.5 million payday, which instead went to runner-up Christian Bezuidenhout. The victory locked up a Tour card until the end of 2026, so Dunlap announced three days later he was turning professional.

Not yet enticed by big-money contract offers from LIV, the young stars on the PGA Tour make the established tour the place to play for those wishing to establish a legacy of brilliance. Michael Wolf, on Twitter, had this to say: “Stories like Nick Dunlap can’t happen in 48-person fields where all of the spots are reserved for 40-year-olds who signed guaranteed long term contracts before the year started.”

The win moved Dunlap from a world ranking of 4,129th to 68th, with the ascent likely to continue. He’s obviously golf’s next big thing.

  • Nora Berry: “Anyone who thinks women talk too much has never sat through a six-hour Super Bowl pregame show.”
  • TSN hockey analyst Craig Button on what he should tell Leafs’ fans about their team: “You can’t handle the truth. It is as simple as this. You want people like me to come up here and tell you how great your team is, and it’s not very good.”
  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “Seriously, amazing moment: Draymond Green got bad call, called for block, and had NO REACTION!!!  Great sign for Warriors.”
  • From “Ex-NHL player Tony Hrkac saves someone from choking to death at Kings’ game. Fans of the team considering him for coach since Kings have been choking on the ice since December.” 
  • Pro golfer Tommy Fleetwood, quoted on @PGATour on X, after reportedly turning down $75 million to sign with LIV: “My future is too bright to just throw it away. I don’t want to ruin my reputation … my name is Tommy Fleetwood, not Cam Smith.”
  • Bob Molinaro of pilotonlinecom (Hampton, Va,): “What’s been the greatest motivational factor for Michigan man Jim Harbaugh? Running toward a Super Bowl title or away from possible NCAA sanctions?”
  • Another snark from “In today’s edition of ‘cheaters never prosper,’ Jim Harbaugh is leaving the national champion Michigan Wolverines to become head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. I thought the constitution forbids ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’
  • Canadian parody website The Beaverton: “Hockey Canada sexual assault scandal a real shock to anyone who has never met a junior hockey player.”
  • Headline at “Fox NFL Sunday Producers Worried Broadcast Doesn’t Feature Enough 50-To-90-Year-Old Men Standing Awkwardly.”
  • Headline at “NFL starting to realize it was Brady, not Belichick, that was responsible for the New England dynasty”
  • RJ Currie of “I imagine it must be tough for Saskatchewan curling fans to cheer Mike McEwen, longtime arch-rival from Manitoba, suddenly skipping a Saskatoon-based team in 2024. Call it sweeping with the enemy.”

Care to comment? Email

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks