The golfer who won $1.5 million but couldn’t accept it is turning pro. He won’t be able to recoup that money, though.

Nick Dunlap has decided to accept a PGA Tour card and turn pro.

Nick Dunlap became the PGA Tour’s first amateur tournament winner since Phil Mickelson won the Tucson Open in 1991.

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Nick Dunlap, the amateur golfer who won a $1.5 million prize from the American Express tournament last weekend but couldn’t collect it because he was still a college athlete, has decided to turn professional.

The announcement comes after days of speculation that Dunlap could leave the University of Alabama golf team and play on the PGA Tour after his historic win.

Dunlap knew when he entered the golf tournament as an amateur that he would not be able to earn any money from it, because that would violate NCAA rules.

So why did he play?

“There’s a huge number of people who are going to be lining up to sign him as a sponsor,” Victor Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross who specializes in sports, told MarketWatch. “Nike and Titleist and all these folks are going to be all lining up.”

According to Dunlap’s Instagram account, he already had sponsorships with Taylor Made and Adidas ADS, +0.97% before entering the tournament.

From the archives: When LeBron James chose Nike in 2003, he gave up $28 million. It could end up making him $1 billion.

The NCAA began allowing college athletes to earn money from their name, image and likeness, or NIL, in 2021, when student-athletes won a decades-long argument over the fairness of receiving no remuneration even as the games in which they played generated millions of dollars for the institutions they were enrolled in. Since then, student-athletes have been able collect sponsorship money that leverages their NIL.

Of course, now that Dunlap is professional he can sign any sponsorship opportunity he wants and doesn’t need to leverage his NIL.

The second benefit Dunlap got from winning this tournament is membership in the PGA.

Winners of tour events are guaranteed invitations to future golf tournaments for a certain number of years, depending on when their win occurs, a PGA spokesperson told MarketWatch. This means Dunlap will have the ability to play in tournaments between now and 2026, and will do so now that he’s a tour member.

“Without a PGA Tour card, you’re not allowed to play in that tournament,” Matheson said.

Despite leaving the Alabama golf team and becoming a professional, he cannot retroactively receive his $1.5 million payout. That money has already been awarded to Christiaan Bezuidenhout, the professional golfer who finished in second place in the American Express tournament.

See also: Who owns the Tiger Woods ‘TW’ logo now that he’s left Nike?

While it may feel like an obvious move for Dunlap to turn professional, it likely wasn’t such a simple calculation.

Like many individual pro sports, golf is expensive for athletes. Golfers, unlike professional golf, football or hockey players, must cover the cost of all their own travel to competitions, as well as paying their coaches and fitness coaches. An athlete who enters the professional golf world and doesn’t do well in tournaments doesn’t get paid and could even end up losing money.

“The assumption is that a college scholarship is worth more to [an athlete] than the potential prize winnings that they would earn, because the vast majority of college athletes who are playing golf aren’t winning $1.5 million,” Matheson said before Dunlap turned pro. “So retaining that college eligibility is worth much more to the vast majority of college golfers.”

Dunlap, who won the U.S. Amateur Championship in 2023, became the PGA Tour’s first amateur winner since Phil Mickelson won the Tucson Open in 1991.

Dunlap did not respond to a request for comment.

See also: NFL star Brock Purdy made $870,000 this season — 16 college football players made more from NIL