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New TOUR pro Nick Dunlap's continued pursuit of learning leads to Saturday 63 in Houston

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    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    HOUSTON – All Nick Dunlap needed was a night at the Cheesecake Factory.

    Dunlap, 20, shot up the Texas Children’s Houston Open leaderboard Saturday with a 7-under 63 at Memorial Park Golf Course, moving to 8-under for the week and positioned to chase his second TOUR title of the season Sunday.

    Dunlap famously won The American Express in January, becoming the first amateur to win on TOUR since 1991, and turned pro shortly thereafter. He celebrated New Year’s as a college sophomore, and he’s now on the doorstep of joining Tom Kim as the only players since Tiger Woods to win twice on TOUR before turning 21.

    Dunlap has struggled to duplicate his Palm Desert success, faring no better than T48 in his five TOUR starts following the victory. But he made the cut at Memorial Park with rounds of 68-71, then turned on the jets with a bogey-free 63 Saturday – just one shy of the tournament record at an event dating to 1946.

    Nick Dunlap’s Round 3 highlights from the Texas Children's

    It harkened back to that Friday night conversation with caddie Hunter Hamrick at a popular chain restaurant.

    “We were at Cheesecake Factory with Hunter, we were going through the round saying, ‘OK, I could do this better, do this better,'" Dunlap said Saturday. "All I tried to do today was play perfect with what I had. Not necessarily like perfect golf but getting the easy ones up and down, not three-putting. You're not going to make every putt and you're not going to hit every wedge close, but from where I was, trying to play a perfect round of golf, and I feel like I did that.”

    Dunlap joked Saturday that he still gets lost early-week at TOUR venues – “don’t know where to register and don’t know where dining is,” he said. But he surrounds himself with esteemed company; mentors include Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns, who have often invited him to play practice rounds. Every observational bit helps, and Dunlap continues to apply it.

    “Try not to be too hard on myself,” Dunlap said of his focus this week. “I'm quickly learning the gap between playing really good golf and average golf out here is very, very small.”

    Saturday leaned on the side of “really good golf.”

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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