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Other big winner from Nick Dunlap shocker? His NIL deals

3 Min Read



TaylorMade, adidas hit jackpot when Alabama sophomore won The American Express

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    Before the birth of NIL in the summer of 2021, enabling college athletes to trade on their Name, Image and Likeness, Nick Dunlap’s historic victory at The American Express on Sunday would not have featured ancillary winners from the world of apparel and equipment, plus other sectors.

    As it was, Dunlap’s victory is now the high-water mark for golf NIL. In becoming the first amateur to win on the PGA TOUR in 33 years, he sported adidas logos on his cap and shirt and TaylorMade on his staff bag and the side of his hat. On his left shirtsleeve was the logo for Wealthspire Advisors, a New York-based investment and financial planning company.

    “The first time I met him, I couldn't believe how big he was across his back,” said Matt Blackey, who was at adidas when Dunlap was recruited but now works for Modest Golf, a sports management company that represents Tyrrell Hatton and others. “He was a man amongst boys, and he had a presence, too. When NIL happened, we were like, where is this going to go? What's the value?

    “Now I just marvel at what (the company) set up with Ludvig (Åberg) and Rose Zhang and now Dunlap,” he continued. “The hits keep coming. It's like, Oh, right, OK. This can happen.”

    Additionally, Michael Thorbjornsen, a senior at Stanford and another NIL adidas athlete, tied for 11th at the Hero Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour on Sunday.

    “You’ve got to be fortunate and a little lucky sometimes to see them play how we think they’re going to play,” said Robbie Ziegler, who oversees junior, collegiate and amateur golf for adidas and attended the celebratory dinner with Dunlap and about 15 close friends and family Sunday night. “We’ve been so fortunate lately, and obviously Nick takes it to a different level.”

    Dunlap had already become the first since Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Junior and U.S. Amateur; many knew of his greatness, but winning on the PGA TOUR is a different level of exposure.

    He preserved his 54-hole lead despite making double-bogey at the par-4 seventh hole, and the potentially intimidating presence of accomplished playing partners Justin Thomas (68, T3, two back) and Sam Burns (71, T6, four back after double-bogeys on 17 and 18). In edging Christiaan Bezuidenhout (65) by one, Dunlap went from golf-famous to sports-famous.

    Meanwhile, he took his NIL portfolio for a thrilling ride.

    “Clearly a fantastic outcome in terms of the visibility they’re receiving,” said Scott Rosner, program director of the Sports Management Program at Columbia University, where he is a professor. “Obviously he’s now outperformed that deal, so the question is what do the next few weeks look like, and whether or not he decides to turn pro.”

    Dunlap said Sunday night that those plans are up in the air, but whether he turns pro and takes up PGA TOUR membership now, next month, or next year, he will be fully exempt through the 2026 season.

    And one way or another, he’ll be playing in the majors and, if he turns pro, THE PLAYERS Championship and the Signature Events. Heck, he could even play in the Presidents Cup.

    Asked to compare the NIL implications of Dunlap’s victory in La Quinta to those of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy winning the national championship, Rosner, a Michigan grad, said the two situations were both entirely different and yet somewhat similar.

    “Clearly the visibility of the Michigan quarterback is greater than the kid who wins The American Express,” Rosner said. “But the premise is still the same, which is that the next step on the ladder will be worth potentially much more, creating all the more incentive to turn pro.

    “I’d be very surprised if he did not take advantage of the great opportunities that will be presented to him,” he added, of Dunlap. “And my response would be, 'Good for him.'”

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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