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Greystone Member Nick Dunlap Makes PGA Tour History

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It was over 3 decades ago when a highly-touted amateur golfer, then a 20-year-old college sophomore at Arizona State University, defied the odds to become a PGA Tour winner at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. That improbable win by Phil Mickelson served notice to the golf world that the onset of a long and successful professional career was about to begin.  

This past January, Greystone’s own Nick Dunlap–coincidentally also a 20-year-old college sophomore–followed in Mickelson’s footsteps with his own almost inconceivable win at the PGA’s 2024 American Express tournament in La Quinta, CA, becoming the first amateur in 33 years to win on Tour. 

Nick dunlap win-1-min

As most PGA tournaments do, this one provided a lot of tension and drama as it came down the home stretch. His path to the title had looked promising after he shot a sizzling 12-under 60 in the third round, following prior rounds of 64 and 65, allowing him to take a 3-shot lead into Sunday’s finale. But on the PGA Tour, you can never coast to victory. Sam Burns made it more than a little interesting in the final round by catching Nick and then taking a 1-shot lead going into hole 16. Nick made a crucial birdie on 16 and, all of a sudden, the two were tied for the lead with two holes to play.  

Fate was looking out for Nick on this day as, shockingly, Burns then hit his tee shot on hole 17 in the water, taking a double bogey and paving the way for Nick to seize the win.  

After he holed a clutch 6-footer for par on 18 to seal the deal, Nick had the trophy along with a new tournament scoring record and a spot in the history books.

A Longshot, to Say the Least

To give you an idea of just how unlikely it is for an amateur to beat the pros, consider how infrequently this happens. In the past 75 years on the PGA Tour, this feat has been accomplished just four times prior to Nick’s win (Gene Littler in 1954, Doug Sanders in 1956, Scott Verplank in 1985, and Mickelson in 1991).  

The betting oddsmakers certainly recognized the unlikelihood of Nick taking home the title.  One of the prominent betting sportsbooks had set the pre-tournament odds of him winning the event outright at +40000, or about 400-1! They no doubt had also taken into account Nick’s age.  Winners this young are also obviously a rarity on the PGA Tour. But Nick defied those odds too.  

In coming out on top, Nick became the second-youngest Tour winner in the past 90 years (at 20 years and 29 days), behind only Jordan Spieth who won the 2013 John Deere Classic at the age of 19.

WATCH: Dunlap sits down for a candid interview with Sports Psychologist Dr. Bhrett McCabe to discuss his golf career and growing up at Greystone.

To Declare or Not to Declare...That Was the Question

Since Nick was a young boy, his dream had always been to someday play on the PGA Tour.  Everything he did, all the sacrifices he made, all the thousands of hours he had devoted to improving, were all done with that singular goal in mind.  

So now, with his win at the AMEX, most people naturally assumed that the decision to declare as a pro would be an easy one for him. Having had to forego the $1.5 million first-place prize due to his amateur status naturally stung a little, but the opportunity for financial gain, though clearly a factor, was not foremost on his mind.  He had other things to consider as he pondered the life-changing decision, namely how it would affect others in his orbit: his family, his University of Alabama teammates and coach, and others.  

As Nick put it prior to announcing if he was officially going to declare his professional status,  “I don’t know. I have to take a second to let what just happened sink in a little bit. That’s a decision that is not just about me. It affects a lot of people, and obviously I’m going to try to enjoy this.”  As a side note, it speaks volumes about Nick’s character and maturity when, in that moment of celebrating this most personal and individual achievement, his thoughts turned to how others might be affected by his decision.  

We now know, of course, that Nick did make the decision to join the PGA Tour and he will now begin to reap the benefits of his momentous win. He will get a two-year exemption on Tour, as well as automatic entry into The Masters and the U.S. Open, and he’ll have the opportunity to participate in the Tour’s seven remaining “Signature” events, tournaments that have limited fields and significantly increased purses.

WATCH: Adidas® showcases Dunlap's history-changing career in a mini video documentary following Nick's win and decision to go professional.

How Will Nick Do on Tour?

Like Mickelson did with his first PGA win, Nick Dunlap has signaled that he has what it takes to be successful in this next phase of his growth as a player.  

Many people probably don’t appreciate just how difficult it is to win on the PGA Tour.  These are the best players in the world and almost any one of them can win on any given week. Despite that, it’s not unrealistic to be optimistic that Nick will win again on Tour, and the chances are good that he will win many times.  

He clearly has the physical talent to rival the best players, but he combines that with a more intangible skill honed from years of competing and being successful at the amateur level–he has learned how to win. 

Interestingly, this is a trait that often eludes many highly skilled players. Many pro golfers have elite-level physical skills, but they are often unequipped mentally to handle and overcome the intense stress and pressure that comes with trying to close out a win. In other words, unlike Nick, many have simply never learned how to win.

In looking back at the impressive amateur championships that Nick has accumulated, it’s easy to see how he has developed this winner’s mentality and why that bodes well for him on the PGA Tour:

  • Alabama State Junior Championship (2018)
  • Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship (2021)
  • American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Polo Golf Junior Classic (2021)
  • U.S. Junior Amateur (2021)
  • Northeast Amateur (2023)
  • North & South Amateur (2023)
  • U.S. Amateur (2023)
  • Member of victorious U.S. Walker Cup team (2023)

As renowned UCLA Hall of Fame basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Winning breeds winning.” With so much “winning” in his past to build on, Nick Dunlap’s future is indeed very bright.  

The entire Greystone community is very proud of Nick, and we wish him many years of success as he takes this next step.

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