Golf's next big star is already a professional

As of this Thursday, the PGA Tour faces another challenge due to the loss of talent to the LIV Golf league, a trend it has been experiencing over the past two years

by Andrea Gussoni
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Golf's next big star is already a professional
© Getty Images Sport - Sean M. Haffey / Staff

As of this Thursday, the PGA Tour faces another challenge due to the loss of talent to the LIV Golf league, a trend it has been experiencing over the past two years. Nick Dunlap, the golfer who recently made headlines with his fairy tale victory at the American Express, achieving the first win by an amateur on the PGA Tour since 1991, has confirmed his decision to turn professional.

This young rising star of the sport will now be able to collect prize money in his future victories, as he couldn't do so in his recent win (Sunday's player was not allowed to accept money as he was still an amateur). And although success in golf can be capricious and sometimes cruel, it's highly likely that he won't be the only one making this transition, as talent, which Dunlap possesses in abundance, tends to be rewarded, both in skill and mentality.

Dunlap, results

Hailing from Alabama, Dunlap, who is just 20 years old and was previously studying finance at a university in his home state, is now guaranteed a PGA Tour card until 2026, thanks to his victory in La Quinta.

Additionally, at least for this year, he'll be competing in the Signature Events, the highest category of tournaments on the tour, which feature limited fields and more substantial prize money. "I want to announce that I'm accepting membership in the PGA," he declared during a press conference held at his alma mater's facilities, before stating that he'll make his debut as a full-fledged member next week (the AmEx was played with a sponsor exemption, which was also available for Torrey Pines this week, but he opted to decline it to rest and reflect on his decision after the intense experience of his recent victory).

His first appearance as a pro will be at Pebble Beach. Dunlap leaves behind an illustrious amateur career, boasting titles such as the US Junior Amateur in 2021 and the US Amateur in 2023, a double feat previously achieved only by Tiger Woods.

Reflecting on his decision, Dunlap stated, "It's a bit surreal that just a week ago, I wasn't even sure if I would ever turn professional. To have the opportunity to pursue my dream at the age of 20 is incredible." He considers this decision to be both the "easiest and most difficult" of his life, as he had a strong desire to play golf professionally and recognized the golden opportunity before him.

The advantages of this choice are evident. Firstly, he has joined an organization that pays substantial sums to individuals for doing what they love most: playing golf. Secondly, he is now eligible to sign sponsorship deals, and given his talent and early fame, sponsors will likely be lining up at his doorstep.

Thirdly, he will have a packed schedule, which is uncommon for a rookie, including participation in major tournaments and prestigious stops on the tour such as Pebble Beach, Riviera, Bay Hill, or Muirfield Village. However, he will miss the chance to stay in the famous Crow's Nest, the Augusta National residence reserved for amateur invitees to the Masters each year.

Many, including Tiger Woods, have acknowledged that this experience played a significant role in their development. Sacrificing that opportunity in favor of a career as a professional golfer, especially one with promise, is a choice that Nick Dunlap believes is well worth it.

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