The American Express golf tournament rarely gives one of its coveted sponsor’s exemptions to an amateur, but Nick Dunlap is a rare amateur.
Dunlap, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Alabama, won the U.S. Amateur last year in Denver and two years after he won the U.S. Junior Amateur at Pinehurst in 2021. Only one other golfer has pulled off the U.S. Junior Amateur-U.S. Amateur double: A guy named Tiger Woods.
This week’s PGA event, which begins Thursday in La Quinta, California, will be the fourth professional event Dunlap has played in. He’s played in the last two U.S. Opens and the 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship. So even though he’s performed on the sport’s biggest stage, he’s still thrilled to get the invite to The American Express.
“It’s really cool, and not just because I was able to get out of some unfortunate weather back home,” Dunlap said Wednesday after playing in the pro-am. “The American Express has given me a great opportunity. I get to play three really good golf courses. The weather’s beautiful and you get to play against the best players. It’s always cool to see how you stack up against the best.”
Tournament executive director Pat McCabe said giving Dunlap one of the event’s eight sponsor’s exemptions was a pretty easy call.
“I just think it’s important to give these decorated young players opportunities like this,” McCabe said. “It will be fun to see him out there playing with the pros at a PGA event. We’re excited to have him here.”
Dunlap did not make the cut in his other three pro tournaments, so that’s a streak he’d like to see end this week. He feels like his game suits the three courses used in the event, and his secret weapon on the bag is former assistant coach Hunter Hamrick.
“Hunter knows my game really well and I think we have a good gameplan, so we have to just go do us,” Dunlap said. “I think my game stacks up well out here. I feel like I’m a solid putter and as good as these greens are … I mean everybody hits it good at this level, so it might come down to a putting contest. Just kind of looking forward to it. Feeling good.”
If there was any ounce of intimidation playing with a pro, it went away once he saw his pairing. Dunlap is paired…