Dunlap's path to Tour card goes through Palm Springs

Dunlap's path to Tour card goes through Palm Springs

Nick Dunlap, the sensational sophomore at Alabama and reigning U.S. Amateur champion, will tee it up in each of the next two weeks on the PGA Tour, beginning with this week’s American Express and continuing at next week’s Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

As the current holder of the Havemeyer Trophy, Dunlap also has a start in the Masters this spring before he turns his focus toward the postseason. The Tide are ranked No. 13 in the national rankings while Dunlap is the top-ranked individual in the country after fall that included a win at the SEC Fall Preview and a runner-up showing at the Hamptons Intercollegiate, during which Dunlap lipped out a putt for the first 59 in college golf history.

Dunlap has two more years of college eligibility left – and one more semester before his results start counting for PGA Tour University, a program that awards professional status to top seniors, including a PGA Tour card to the No. 1 player in points (last year that was Ludvig Aberg). But Dunlap could instead follow the path of Vanderbilt junior Gordon Sargent, who earned a Tour card starting this summer after satisfying the 20-point requirement of PGA Tour U’s Accelerated system.

Sargent is leaning toward turning pro after this year’s NCAA Championship, and there’s a chance, if he wants to, that Dunlap could be joining him.

Speaking of Accelerated, Dunlap currently sits at 11 points. Here are some ways he can earn points this spring:

  • Made cut in PGA Tour event (1 point each)

  • Top-10 in PGA Tour event (1 point each)

  • Major start (1 point each)

  • Made cut in major (1 point each)

  • Top-20 in major (2 points each)

  • Reach No. 2 or No. 1 in WAGR (1 point for each; currently third)

  • Win Haskins, Hogan or Nicklaus awards (3 points each)

  • Win NCAA Championship (3 points)

Dunlap has a maximum of 22 possible points this spring, though he only needs nine points between now and the end of the NCAA Championship to get his Tour card for this summer.

In his career, Dunlap has played three Tour events — U.S. Opens in 2022 and 2023, and last fall's Bermuda Championship. He missed the cut in all three.

For the first three rounds of the AmEx, Dunlap drew a comfy pairing. His playing competitor will be Alabama alum Wilson Furr, who was on Alabama's 2018 NCAA runner-up team that lost to Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek. Furr is a rookie on Tour after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour last season.