Just Like Phil

Nick Dunlap follows Phil Mickelson’s pattern from 33 years ago — make history by winning PGA Tour event 5 months after claiming U.S. Amateur title at Cherry Hills CC

By Gary Baines – 1/21/2024

Perhaps it should be called the Cherry Hills effect — and a nice bit of symmetry, to boot.

In 1990, Phil Mickelson won the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club in August. Five months later, in January of 1991, he captured a PGA Tour title at the Northern Telecom Open.

Mickelson had been the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour — until Sunday. 

University of Alabama golfer Nick Dunlap won the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills — in August. And five months later, he matched Mickelson’s feat by claiming a PGA Tour title as an amateur — in his case at The American Express in La Quinta, Calif.

Near mirror images, 33 years apart. 

“Such an impressive performance by Nick Dunlap,” Mickelson said in a post on X on Sunday. “Congratulations on an incredible win. This is just the beginning.”

For Dunlap, it’s more golf history. At Cherry Hills, be joined Tiger Woods as the only players in history to have won both the U.S. Junior Amateur and the U.S. Am. And now, he’s the first amateur since 1991 to earn a PGA Tour victory. He became just the eighth amateur since World War II to triumph on the PGAT — and just the third since 1956, with Scott Verplank (1985 Western Open) joining him and Mickelson.

In another note with a link to Colorado, Dunlap became the first player since current Colorado resident Martin Laird at the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open to win on the PGA Tour while competing on a sponsor exemption.

Dunlap, 20 years and one month old, becomes the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour since 1931, with only Jordan Spieth (19 at the 2013 John Deere Classic) being younger.

“I went over the scenario today probably a million times,” Dunlap said on the Golf Channel after Sunday’s victory. “It’s never going to go how you planned — and it didn’t. I’m (just) so happy to be standing here”as the champion.

“I felt the script today already was written. I was going to go give it everything I had — whether I shot 75 or 65 or 70.”

Dunlap sank a par putt of just under 6 feet for the victory on Sunday.

The victory gives Dunlap an exemption on the PGA Tour through 2026 — starting with whenever he turns pro and foregoes the remainder of his college eligibility. If he doesn’t take membership during the 2024 season, he has until 30 days after the conclusion of the season to turn pro and accept membership for the 2025 PGA Tour season.

Asked by PGA Tour radio which way he’s leaning regarding going pro in the near future, Dunlap said, “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’s not just about me. It effects a lot of people, and obviously I’m going to try to enjoy this.”

(JAN. 25 UPDATE: Dunlap announced on Thursday that he will turn pro and accept PGA Tour membership. He’s planning to make his pro debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, set for Feb. 1-4.)

At The American Express, Dunlap went 64-65-60-70 to finish at 29 under par, good for a one-shot victory. On Sunday, he overcame a double bogey on the seventh hole and missing two birdie putts from 7 feet on the back nine. 

But after trailing Sam Burns for much of the back nine, the two were tied on the 17th tee when Burns hit his tee shot on the par-3 into the water and made double bogey. He also double bogeyed the final hole after going bogey-free for the first 16 holes of the day.

Meanwhile, Dunlap got up and down for par on 18 — sinking a 5 foot, 9-inch par putt — to win by one over Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

“We saw greatness today,” noted analyst Jim Gallagher on the Golf Channel.

Said Dunlap: “I told Sam numerous times, it’s so cool to be out here and experience this as an amateur. … If you had told me Wednesday night that I would have a putt to win this golf tournament, I wouldn’t have believed you. … I learned so much today and am so grateful to be out here.”

Dunlap doesn’t get the $1.512 million first prize since he is still an amateur.

For all the scores from the American Express, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates