Wrap-up Of The 65th Edition Of The American Express

During January’s 65th edition of The American Express, a key fixture of the PGA TOUR’s California circuit nestled in the expansive desert of the Coachella Valley, an unexpected challenger stole the spotlight.

Since its inception in 1960, The American Express golf tournament has celebrated a tradition of merging amateur talent with seasoned professionals, with luminaries such as Bob Hope gracing its fairways, attracting celebrities and even U.S. presidents. Hosting 156 amateurs alongside an equal number of professionals across three esteemed desert courses over the initial three days, the event stands out as a unique fixture on the golfing calendar. Notably, it remains the only Tour event played across three venues: La Quinta Country Club, PGA West Nicklaus Tournament Course, and the PGA West Pete Dye Stadium Course, which serves as the host course and the exclusive stage for Sunday’s final round.

While past editions predominantly showcased professional skills, the 2024 The American Express witnessed a remarkable paradigm shift. Nick Dunlap, a 20-year-old sophomore from the University of Alabama and reigning U.S. Amateur champion, emerged as the first amateur in over three decades to claim a PGA TOUR victory, echoing memories of Phil Mickelson’s breakthrough in 1991 and joining an elite group of amateurs who’ve triumphed on Tour since World War II.

Dunlap and Tiger Woods are the only golfers to win a U.S. Junior Amateur (Dunlap did so in 2021), a U.S. Amateur, and a PGA TOUR tournament. Dunlap ascended to No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking before turning professional and taking up PGA TOUR membership a few days after his January victory.

The atmosphere on the final day at the Stadium Course at PGA West crackled with anticipation as a fervent crowd rallied behind Dunlap, witnessing his masterful navigation of each hole while fending off a competitive field. Despite challenges from established stars like Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Kevin Yu, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Michael Kim, Adam Hadwin, and Sam Burns, all within striking distance, Dunlap’s stellar performance remained unmatched.

Dunlap shattered the tournament’s previous 72-hole scoring record, finishing an astonishing 29-under-par and including a remarkable 12-under 60 at La Quinta CC in the third round, equaling the lowest round ever recorded by an amateur in Tour history. His youthful exuberance captivated spectators at the Stadium Course at PGA West as he triumphed over a formidable array of pros to claim the coveted title.

(Photo Courtesy Of The American Express)

The American Express continues to evolve beyond just a golfing event, transforming into a premier entertainment spectacle featuring chart-topping musicians like Keith Urban and Train as part of its Friday and Saturday concert series. With Dunlap’s historic triumph adding to its allure, The American Express stands as a testament to sporting excellence and entertainment, beckoning visitors to the Southern California desert for a week of golf, leisure, and unforgettable experiences during the winter season.

On this note, I would be remiss not to mention the “Canadian Factor” which benefits the players, the tournament, and the Coachella Valley.

Canadian golf enthusiasts, who not only dominate the fairways but also constitute a significant portion of homeowners in regions spanning from Palm Springs to Coachella, Phoenix/Scottsdale, and San Diego, find solace in the region’s favourable climate. The allure of picturesque golf courses weaving through breathtaking desert vistas further enhances their experience.

The Coachella Valley stands out as the prime destination for Canadians, offering a blend of affordable housing, upscale golf communities, top-notch hotels, and a plethora of golfing options exceeding a hundred courses. Desert courses have witnessed a surge in activity with increased home rentals and a burgeoning reputation for golf and climate drawing more enthusiasts than ever, particularly to events like The American Express where Canadian presence is palpable, and with volunteers peppering the venues with their distinctive linguistic nuances.

About the Writer
 Lotz, J.D., Ph.D. is the director of the Professional Golf Teachers Association of America. Visit www.facebook.com/PGTAA to see all the latest mental strategies, travel, and equipment reviews. Currently, he also works with between 10 to 12 PGA TOUR players on the mental side of golf.

He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and serves both as a consultant and mediator to the golf industry. He is also the author of numerous books, including “333 Best Web Sites for Golfers” and his previous book, “How to Build Business Relationships Through Golf,” which is still on the Top Ten Golf Business Book’s bestseller list. His current book, “The Right Mind for Golf,” is now in its 13th reprint and is available on Amazon and at the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Just released on June 1st, his new book, “The Right Mind for Putting,” is now available at www.pgtaa.com.