Nick Dunlap, first amateur to win PGA Tour event in 33 years, will turn pro

The Alabama sophomore will forgo his final years of eligibility to join the PGA Tour.

Nick Dunlap holds the trophy after winning the American Express golf tournament, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, in La Quinta, Calif. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

Four days after becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson in 1991, Alabama sophomore Nick Dunlap has decided to take his talents to the Tour.

Dunlap, 20, will make his professional debut at next week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the 2024 season's first full-field signature event. He put himself in position to make the choice by winning the American Express in La Quinta, California, last weekend, riding a third-round 60 to a one-shot victory on Sunday.

"It was the easiest, hardest decision I've ever had to make," Dunlap said in a tearful news conference in Tuscaloosa on Thursday.

Dunlap already had entry into this season's Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship thanks to his victory at last year's U.S. Amateur. (He's the first defending U.S. Amateur champion to win a Tour event since Tiger Woods in 1996.) He'll surrender those entries, but his American Express victory gets him exemptions into the Masters and the U.S. Open, as well as the PGA Championship, the Players Championship, all of this year's remaining signature events, and next season's Sentry. Dunlap also leaped from No. 4,129 to No. 68 in the Official World Golf Rankings, the highest one-week jump in the rankings' history.

Most notably, the victory gives him full Tour status and exemption onto the the PGA Tour through the 2026 season. That's an invaluable foundation for a young player; Dunlap can now build his career without fear of falling off the PGA Tour for several years.

When asked on Sunday if he would be turning pro, Dunlap demurred. “That’s something that it doesn’t just affect me," he said. "It affects a lot of people ... and it’s a conversation I need to have with a lot of people before I make that decision." Dunlap was the No. 1 ranked amateur and the top-ranked Division I player prior to turning pro.