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Nick Dunlap admits life on the PGA Tour is ‘a little lonely’

Young golfers make early impression

Nick Dunlap is now in his 15th event as a professional golfer since shocking the world by winning The American Express in La Quinta as an amateur last January. And while he’s more comfortable now with the professional life, Dunlap admits the pro game can be frustrating.

“Honestly, the most frustrating thing is that I’ve had to realize that I can’t attack pins with sand wedges sometimes,” Dunlap said. “I think (recent tournaments were) pretty eye-opening for me in realizing that sometimes you’re not going to hit the green, even if you are on the fairway.

“It’s taken me a little while to realize how to play some of these golf courses,” Dunlap added. “Even par is a great score. Most of the time on the weekends it gets even harder.”

Dunlap, still just 20, has faced plenty of questions since deciding to turn pro after winning The American Express in La Quinta, making him the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 33 years. Should he have stayed at the University of Alabama? Was his game ready for the PGA Tour, even though he had just beaten a field that included world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele?

The questions have grown louder as Dunlap’s year has continued. While he’s surpassed $1 million in earnings in his 14 starts — he won no money at The American Express — he has missed five cuts and has been in the top 15 in an event just twice. He missed the cut in all three major championships he’s played this year, and he was 66th in the most recent event he played, the Travelers Championship. He was a strong 12th the week before the U.S. Open at The Memorial.

This week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, however, Dunlap is in contention at the midway point, building off an opening-round 67. He’s 8 under through 36 holes, just five strokes behind leader Akshay Bhatia.

For Dunlap, it is all part of a learning process.

“I always kind of thought coming out here that I had a lot to learn,” Dunlap said. “I thought that my game was good enough. But these guys are so good consistently week in and week out. I knew I needed to do a couple things to be able to maintain my game, compete week in and week out. I’m three, four months into it. Kind of starting to get a grasp on it.”

One reason for Dunlap to turn pro was that his The American Express win makes him exemption for PGA Tour events through 2026, so he doesn’t have to worry about piecing together a schedule like a regular…


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