The Round Table: Dunlap’s dilemma – turn pro or stay in school?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Editor’s Note: We publish The Round Table on Tuesday each week. On Thursday, Nick Dunlap announced his decision to turn pro. Apparently he doesn’t read The Round Table.

On Sunday, Nick Dunlap became the first amateur to win on the PGA Tour in 33 years. While he didn’t receive the $1.5 million first place cheque, the victory gets him into all the PGA Tour events for the balance of 2024 including the no-cut Signature events. Plus, he will be exempt on Tour through the 2026 season, and it’s expected he will be inundated with sponsorship offers as soon as he turns pro. Dunlap said that it’s his lifelong dream to chase Tiger’s records but he also wants to win a national championship with Alabama, which would require him to remain an amateur for several more months. What do you think he should do?  

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): If he’s a good guy, he’ll stick with the Crimson Tide and win the national championship. He’s got all the time in the world to make hundreds of millions of dollars.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): If his goal is to chase Tiger’s records and be a Touring Professional, then he should absolutely turn pro now. The money he would end up receiving from sponsors and potentially through the two-year exemption in prize money could well be worth it. He could always go back to school to finish his education. Winning a national Championship won’t up his value any more than it is right now, so my advice is to take advantage of this opportunity.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: One thing at a time! His original plan was to acquire an education. He should accomplish that goal first. Everything else can wait and is perfectly positioned to wait. He still can apply for his Tour card, he still has all of his exemptions and in his spare time, he can help Alabama win a national championship and graduate.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): That would be crazy loyalty to his Bama teammates if he stays to try to win a collegiate championship, as the money dangled in front of him right now is insane.  That being said, it looks like his talent is unquestioned and he’ll get his payday, no matter when he turns pro.  So if he thinks there is a good chance of winning a national championship, perhaps that’s the right move for him.  He’ll still have 20 months or so of PGA Tour status to rake in the millions he’ll no doubt make, and enough to keep his card moving forward.  He still gets into the Masters and US Open as an amateur, so that won’t be a consideration.  I think he turns pro at the end of May.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Incredibly tough call. If he stays at ‘Bama, he gets to play in The Masters as an amateur, and he wears his loyalty, affection, and devotion to his college team on his logo-less sleeve. In the I-Me-Me-My LIV era, his immediate post-win reaction was refreshing. His road will still be paved with endorsements and exemptions a couple of months from now, even if he and his buds don’t win the national championship. If he calls, I’ll tell him to hit the books.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Stay in school. Have fun. Gain experience. Dunlap could still make millions as an amateur through the NIL program and stick around to help Alabama. As the reigning U.S. Amateur champ, he’s already in the Masters and Open Championships and can still accept sponsor’s exemptions to the PGA Tour. If he turns pro in a year or two, he’ll be a seasoned veteran. Money won’t be an issue.

Brandel Chamblee had his first “official” tryout in the lead analyst’s chair during the American Express Championship. Everyone is familiar with Chamblee’s work as a studio analyst on Golf Channel, but the circumstances are different when he’s part of a team describing the play-by-play. How would you rate his performance and how does he compare to other applicants such as Paul McGinley and Kevin Kisner?

Deeks: Can’t say, sorry.  I was too busy making a fool of myself on the golf course here in Florida on the weekend, so didn’t see Brandel’s debut.  But I’ve always been a big fan, and I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job going forward, even if he has to dial down the criticism a bit.  At this point, I would rather watch Chamblee over McGinley and Kisner, but they may surprise me as the season progresses.

Loughry: I think Chamblee did just fine, he’ll be a safe choice like McGinley versus Kisner. I just don’t like in general any announcer or analyst taking over the scene, sometimes saying nothing is the right choice, and should be done more often than we have seen in the past.

Schurman: Brandel came into this job as a mature rookie. He has spent hundreds of hours in the TV business. He knows how to prepare and how to speak. However, I do like Paul McGinley. In time, Kevin Kisner might learn the job. However, right now, I think has great potential.

Rule: Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to watch any of the telecast last weekend, I guess pro golf just doesn’t really grab my attention other than the big events these days.  It’s kind of like tennis now, as I find myself watching some Aussie Open this week, and realized I do care about the 4 Grand Slam events, but not sure if I’ve ever watched a match in any other event that doesn’t include a Canadian.  Anyway, I digress, I’m sure he was great but I reserve my comment until I actually watch him on a telecast.

Quinn: Someone recently opined that Tom Brady would be better as a studio analyst than a colour guy in the booth when his multi-million-dollar TV deal kicks in. Same might be true for Chamblee. Heard just a little of his audition — the NFL does rule this time of year — and didn’t recognize his voice as the broadcast switched back and forth from on-course to the booth. Being a Chamblee fan, assume he was insightful. But when he is in studio, with time to research takes, he’s really insightful. Given the temper of the US election times, don’t think a foreign accent, like McGinley’s, is timely. Byrum is good, but he seems to have a Ripley bet to say ‘there’ more than humanly possible in one broadcast. Kisner was a bit hyper, to my mind, for the game as we used to know it. It’s a tough job. As a counterpoint to LIV hype and blaring music, less would be more. Yankee TV execs should watch BBC coverage of The Open and take notes.

Mumford: I think Brandel did a commendable job, but I still maintain the format doesn’t play to his strengths which include his legendary deep-dive analysis and thought-provoking opinions as a studio analyst. Brandel would be excellent doing a Jack Whitaker style opinion piece too, but play-by-play is lots of fast-moving bits and off-the-cuff remarks, that often don’t have any connection. So far, I think McGinley was best.

Bernhard Langer announced that this year will be his last Masters. The 66-year-old two-time champ has quite a record as a senior although he hasn’t made the cut the last three years. Part of the Masters charm is the annual presence of past champions, even long after they’re competitive. Some argue that the old guys are taking a spot in the field that could go to a younger player. How do you see it?

Deeks: Yes, it’s nice, but honestly, they created the Champions Tour over 40 years ago to accommodate the old boys and give them a competitive mulligan.  I’d say that any Masters Champion should be given a 10-year exemption to Augusta, then be invited back as a spectator after that.  It was frankly annoying and embarrassing to watch Doug Ford and Billy Casper scrape around Augusta, barely breaking 100 in their 70s, until they got the hook.  Does anyone want to watch Trevor Immelman try to break 85?  I don’t think so.

Loughry: I like the connection to past Champions in the Masters field. I think most players know when it is time to pass the baton and move on to the ceremonial opening tee shot versus staying in the tournament field. I don’t think a strict policy needs to be put in place to manage this, it works just fine as it is now.

Schurman: Professional golf is entertainment. At some point, the Masters field has to include players who the public wants to see. Bernard has earned his spot and regardless of what he shoots a certain segment of the patrons will follow him. So, the big question becomes which player would now qualify if Langer dropped out and would that player attract more viewers?

Rule: First of all, what an amazing run Langer has had at Augusta, finishing as high as T8 as a 56 year old and T29 when he was 62!  That’s absolutely incredible.  It’s actually nice to see him decide to play his last Masters this year as he’s obviously not able to compete anymore given his lack of length.  I do like the idea of past champions being able to play as long as they can.  They aren’t taking up a spot from anyone else since it’s a limited field anyway, they never get to even 100 participants.  But there is a time for those past champs to hang up the soft spikes, and Bernhard has picked a good time in my opinion.

Quinn: The switch from ‘live’ action to a geriatric past champ — voice over in Nance-like reverence; “Here’s past champion (insert name here) tapping in for an 86 and getting a wonderful salute from the patrons” — has always been a bathroom-break moment for golf fans. Langer, as he has throughout his storied career, is setting an example. The green jackets should heed the example and set the Langer Limit on age, and can the ceremonial tee off while they’re at it.

Mumford: The “old guys” are part of the Masters tradition and I suspect more patrons tune in to see Freddie, Bubba or Bernhard than the nameless, faceless bombers that inhabit the lower rungs of Augusta invitees. Let them keep playing as long as they’re reasonably competent and don’t embarrass the tournament or themselves. If they start to dodder, falter or lose track of where they are, a quiet word from Fred Ridley can have them consigned to some honourary role. And they’re always welcome at the Champions Dinner.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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