ProFile: Nick Dunlap trying to find his groove

Nick Dunlap reacts to sinking his par putt on 18th to win The American Express at PGA West Dye Stadium Course on Jan 21, 2024 in La Quinta, Calif. (Photo by Ken Murray via Getty Images)

FORESTVILLE, New York – Since bursting on the scene as an amateur at The American Express tournament in late January at La Quinta Country Club in California, newly turned professional Nick Dunlap has had a difficult time tuning his game and adjusting out on Tour.

“I have the opportunity to live out my dream as a 20 year-old, it’s pretty surreal. But it’s also scary,” said Dunlap, owner of decade of impressive amateur victories.

On January 21, 2024 Nick Dunlap capped off one of the most historic weeks in professional golf history becoming the first amateur since the legendary Phil Mickelson to win on the PGA Tour. It had been 33 years since Mickelson’s victory at the Northern Telecom Open, marking the start of a potentially remarkable career as a golf professional.

Nick Dunlap, a 20-year old amateur from Alabama made golf history on Sunday January 21 by becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 33 years capturing the America Express Championship.

Dunlap is no stranger to the spotlight winning the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Country Club of North Carolina, the 2023 North and South Amateur, the 2023 Northeast Amateur, and to top things off the 2023 U.S. Amateur. He is the only player to ever win the U.S. Junior Amateur, the U.S. Amateur, and a PGA Tour event as an amateur.

With an unprecedented win under his belt, all the attention now turns to when will his first victory come as a professional. When a player of Dunlap’s caliber wins at such a young age, it is hard for fans and the media to not make comparisons to other greats in the game and we expect his abilities to naturally follow through. But so far, that is not the case.

Since Dunlap’s inaugural win he has struggled to find his footing, shooting under par in only one tournament and missing two cuts. He played twice in February, finishing dead last at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and missed the cut at the Genesis Invitational after rounds of 70 (-1) and 75 (+4). He then took two weeks off and returned at the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches and showed promise after an opening round 67, but that Thursday would mark the last time Dunlap has currently shot in the sixties on the PGA Tour. The train stopped there, with three straight rounds in the seventies (70, 71, 71) through the weekend finishing tied for 53rd.

Next up was the signature event at Bay Hill, the coveted Arnold Palmer Invitational. Dunlap barely managed to break par in a single round, (72, 74, 75, 71) with only his Sunday round narrowly eclipsing the even par total. One week later he was standing in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida ready to tee off in his first ever Players tournament at TPC Sawgrass, but his first round 77 (+5) would cause him to miss the weekend and another MC.


In an interview with the Golf Channel at The Players Dunlap reflected on the past seven weeks and what life has been like since turning pro.

“I’m tired,” said Dunlap, who has played in 5 events with 2 MCs earning $107,390. “I’m normally asleep by 9:30 p.m., able to pop awake at 6:00 a.m. pretty easily and I’m struggling to get out of bed at 7:00 a.m. Just the traveling and the golf week in and week out is tiring and it’s something I’m still trying to get adjusted to.”

For Dunlap he is seeing most of the golf courses for the first time and familiarity is a large component of success when it comes to winning golf tournaments against the best in the world. Once he is adjusted to the schedule and has the experience playing the golf courses, I reckon his name will be at the top of leaderboards consistently.

With The Masters quickly approaching in April, rookie Nick Dunlap aims to right the ship at Augusta National in his first career major tournament. It will be exciting to watch his young career unfold over the next couple of years and the quality of golf he can play once he is accustomed to life on the PGA Tour.

Leave a Reply

Notify of