HISTORY LESSON: All the amateurs that have won on the PGA Tour
23 Jan 2024
by Amit Pandey of AmateurGolf.com
Doug Sanders won the 1956 Canadian Open (Golf Canada Photo)
20-year-old Nick Dunlap, a sophomore at Alabama, has just made history by becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Phil Mickelson's triumph at the Northern Telecom Open in January 1991.
With the win, Dunlap can take up PGA Tour membership any time during the 2024 PGA TOUR Season. He will get the typical exemption of a PGA Tour winner.
- Membership on the PGA Tour through the 2026 PGA Tour Season.
- Exemptions into all 2024 Signature Events (provided he turns pro before those events), the Masters, and the PGA Championship.
- Dunlap currently has exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship as the winner of the 2023 U.S. Amateur. His exemptions into the Masters and The Open are contingent on him remaining an amateur, but if he turns pro, his win at The American Express makes him exempt into the Masters and PGA Championship as a PGA Tour winner. The U.S. Open allows the U.S. Amateur champion to play professionally in its tournament.
- As a PGA Tour winner, Dunlap is exempt into this year's THE PLAYERS regardless of if he turns professional
The feat had been accomplished only eight times before today, with Frank Stranahan achieving it twice on his own in 1945 and 1948.
Let’s look at the list of other amateur winners on the PGA Tour:
Cary Middlecoff - 1945 North & South Open
Emmett Cary Middlecoff shot 8-under par, posting rounds of 70-69-69-72 to secure victory in the 1945 North and South Open as an amateur. He triumphed with a five-stroke lead over Denny Shute from Cleveland, OH.
Subsequently, Middlecoff became a three-time major winner in his career, claiming the U.S. Open titles in 1949 and 1956 and winning The Masters in 1955.
Denny Shute was already a three-time major winner - The Open (1933) & PGA Championship (1936, 1937) at the time when he lost to Middelcoff in the tournament.
Fred Haas - 1945 Memphis Invitational
Fred Haas Jr. shot 18-under par, posting rounds of 69-69-64-68, securing a five-shot victory over amateur Bob Cochran and George Low Jr. to clinch the Memphis Invitational in August 1945.
Originally from Portland, Ark., Haas graduated from Louisiana State University in 1937, where he won the NCAA Championship in his senior year. He transitioned to the professional circuit in 1946 and subsequently represented the 1953 Ryder Cup team.
Frank Stranahan - 1945 Durham War Bond Tournament
Frank Stranahan from Toledo, OH, shot 3-under 277 to win the final edition of the 1945 Durham Open, a tournament that was played three times from 1944 to 1945 at Durham Valley, North Carolina.
The previous two winners were Byron Nelson and Craig Woods.
As a junior, Stranahan received instructions from Byron Nelson at Inverness, where Nelson worked as the club’s professional.
Frank Stranahan - 1948 Miami Open
After his triumph at the 1945 Durham Open, Stranahan chose to remain an amateur and proceeded to secure his second professional title on the PGA Tour by winning the 1948 Miami Open. Stranahan posted a total score of 270, defeating Chick Harbert by a four-shot margin.
Gene Littler - 1954 San Diego Open
Gene Littler, hailing from San Diego, Calif., and the 1953 U.S. Amateur winner, shot 14-under par with rounds of 67-66-69-72, securing a victory in the 1954 San Diego Open by a four-shot margin over Dutch Harrison.
Subsequently, Littler went on to win the U.S. Open Championship in 1961 and became a distinguished member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Doug Sanders - 1956 Canadian Open
Doug Sanders from Cedartown, Ga., carded rounds of 69-67-69-68 to match Dow Fisterwald at 15-under par and later beat him in a playoff to become the only amateur to win the Canadian Open.
Sanders later went on to win 20 times on the TOUR and even registered a win on the Champions Tour. He even sponsored the Doug Sanders Junior International Junior Championship in Houston, Tex., and even sponsored the Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic from 1988-1994.
Scott Verplank - 1985 Western Open
Scott Verplank from Dallas, Tex., shot 9-under par following his rounds of 68-68-69-74 to join Jim Thorpe in a playoff and beat him on the second extra hole at Butler Nation in IL for the Western Open title.
Verplank attended Oklahoma State University and was a member of the 1983 NCAA Championship team and it was just prior to his senior year at college that he won a PGA TOUR title.
He went on to win a total of five times on the PGA Tour in his career.
Phil Mickelson - 1991 Northern Telecom Open
Before today, the last amateur to claim a professional title on the PGA Tour was Phil Mickelson at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.
Mickelson recorded rounds of 65-71-65-71, accumulating a total score of 16-under 272 to edge out Tom Purtzer and Bob Tway by a single shot in Tucson, Ariz.. Mickelson, the then 20-year-old junior at Arizona State birdied the 72nd hole to win by one shot.