LA QUINTA, Calif. — Before the 2024 American Express, it would have been hard to imagine a more surprising winner than 20-year-old amateur Nick Dunlap.
But those who knew Dunlap, including many of his friends, family and coaches who were on hand Sunday for his historic PGA Tour victory, weren’t caught off guard by his remarkable four days in La Quinta.
Dunlap is a sophomore at the University of Alabama, and his coach Jay Seawell made the trip to the desert this weekend. He was jumping around and hugging everyone around him when Dunlap’s winning putt went in on the 18th hole.
“Just jubilation,” Seawell said behind the 18th green at the Stadium Course at PGA West as Dunlap was accepting the trophy. “When you’ve known a young man for a long time and know this is what he dreamed of when he was 11 years old and he’d tell you that himself, I’ve been emotional all day.”
Dunlap had a three-stroke lead to begin Sunday, but it evaporated with a double-bogey on the seventh hole that included a water ball. The general public may have thought that was the beginning of the end for the 20-year-old who became the second-youngest winner on the PGA Tour in 90 years. Not dad.
“Somebody asked me about halfway through ‘Do you think he’s going to win?’ and I was like ‘Well, I don’t know if he’s going to win, but he is a grinder and I guarantee he’s going to have some birdies toward the end,’ and he did,” said Dunlap’s father, Jim, who along with Dunlap’s mom, Charlene, were emotional and quick to give their son a long hug after the final putt dropped.
“I think a few tears trickled out and I’m not a big crier, but it’s hard not to be proud of your son who works his tail off and finds a way to win,” Jim said.
It seems like all Dunlap does is win. He won the U.S. Junior Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and now a PGA Tour event as an amateur. No player has ever pulled off that trifecta.
Seawell said, of course Dunlap has the skill, but it’s his demeanor that allows him to end up in the winner’s circle so often.
“Some people are built different,” Seawall said. “He’s won everywhere he’s been, and you saw it today. He made a double on seven and he could have folded the tent right there, but he didn’t. He kept playing and he didn’t…