By Ron Green, Global Golf Post

It’s fair to assume at this moment, given all that 20-year-old Nick Dunlap already has accomplished in golf, that there will be more Sunday afternoons when he’s holding a tournament trophy.

But there will never be another like this one.

Dunlap’s victory Sunday in the American Express, built on a final round that churned with emotional twists in the southern California desert, feels like more than an amateur winning a PGA Tour event for the first time since Phil Mickelson did it in 1991.

It’s as if Dunlap planted his own flag on pro golf, announcing his arrival even before he has declared himself a professional, a proclamation likely just a matter of time.

Dunlap’s talent, his potential and his preternatural presence are the elements separating the special ones even if his nerves were jangling as he finished off a victory in a tournament he wasn’t part of until receiving a sponsor exemption less than three weeks ago.

“Most nervous I’ve ever been, by far,” said Dunlap, who would have won $1.512 million from the $8.4 million purse had he been a pro. “Just tried to breathe, but also look up and enjoy it a little bit. I’ve said it numerous times today and yesterday and the past couple days, it’s a really cool spot to be in as an amateur, and just to be here and be given the opportunity to play, and I don’t ever want to forget today.”

It was one more performance in a growing résumé of exceptional performances that point to Dunlap being an uncommon talent.

He shot 59 as a 12-year-old, shot 60 in a college event for Alabama and put together another 60 on Saturday at the American Express, setting himself up with a three-stroke lead entering the final round.

Dunlap finished at 29-under-par 259 while becoming just the seventh amateur to win on tour. He also jumped to 68th in the Official World Golf Ranking. (He came into the week No. 3 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.)

Not bad for a college sophomore whose Saturday night plans included doing laundry so he will have fresh clothes when he tees it up at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines this week.

Beyond becoming the second-youngest winner in tour history (Dunlap is 20 years and 29 days), the victory has the potential to suddenly change his career path. Sunday evening, Dunlap said he had not made a decision about his plans.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I really don’t. It’s really cool to have that opportunity in the first place, and starting the week, if you would have said, hey, in five days you’re going to have a PGA Tour card or an opportunity for two years, I would have looked at you sideways.

“That’s something that, it doesn’t just affect me; it affects a lot of people, coach back there (referring to Alabama golf coach Jay Seawell, who arrived for the final round) and my teammates, and it’s a conversation I need to have with a lot of people before I make that decision.”

Though Dunlap cannot retroactively declare himself a pro to collect the winner’s check, he would have full tour eligibility through 2026 if and when he declares his professional intentions. Dunlap has qualified for the Masters by virtue of his U.S. Amateur victory, and though he would lose that spot if he turns pro before then, he would be eligible to play Augusta by virtue of his American Express win.

He has qualified for the big-money signature events and already has established himself as one of the game’s new stars.

“It’s amazing,” said Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who finished second to Dunlap, one shot behind but picked up first-place money. “He’s obviously a hell of a player.”

One swing – a mis-hit iron shot that found water off the tee on the short, par-4 seventh at PGA West’s Stadium Course – almost had a crushing impact on Dunlap’s chances. Leading by three, Dunlap made a double bogey while playing competitor Sam Burns made a birdie there, suddenly wiping out the amateur’s cushion.

Instead, Dunlap kept grinding away and Burns, a five-time tour winner, made the devastating mistake when he hit his tee shot in the water at the dangerous par-3 17th, leaving Dunlap to par the closing hole for the win.

Thinking he had a two-stroke lead playing the 18th, Dunlap played his second shot right of the green to avoid water on the left and gave himself a putt just inside 6 feet to win. He holed it in the center to avoid a playoff. By winning in California, Dunlap becomes the first amateur in 33 years to win on the PGA Tour.

“It tested everything I had,” Dunlap said. “I missed a couple putts that I thought I was going to make. I went over a scenario for today probably a million times, and it’s never going to go how you plan, and it didn’t. I’m so happy to be standing here.”

Ron Green Jr.