Nick Dunlap became the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA TOUR, holding on for a one-shot victory over Christiaan Bezuidenhout at The American Express on Sunday.
Dunlap, the 20-year-old University of Alabama sophomore and reigning U.S. Amateur champion, is the first amateur winner since Phil Mickelson at the Northern Telecom Open in 1991.
He’s only the seventh amateur since 1945 — and the third since 1957 — to win a TOUR event. In just his fourth start on TOUR, Dunlap also became the youngest amateur to win on TOUR since 1910.
Dunlap was the only amateur in the 156-person field in the tournament long known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic, but he surged into a three-shot lead with a sizzling 60 in Round 3. He lost that lead Sunday on the front nine on the Stadium Course at PGA WEST, but he played with the resilience of a seasoned veteran down the stretch, capped by his recovery from two errant shots on the 18th to finish with a 6-foot par putt for a 2-under 70. At 29-under 259, he broke the tournament scoring record in a 72-hole event.
Bezuidenhout birdied the 18th in the group ahead to keep pressure on Dunlap, whose tee shot landed high in the rough. His second shot wasn’t much more accurate but took a fortunate roll from the rough into a grassy drainage area off the green.
Dunlap got inside 6 feet with his third shot, and he celebrated the par putt for the title with hugs from his parents and girlfriend, who flew cross-country Saturday to watch in person.
Dunlap doesn’t get the $1.5 million first-place prize, which goes to Bezuidenhout after the South African’s final-round 65.