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Nicholas Dunlap, Megha Ganne win 2021 AJGA Rolex Players of the Year in unique ways

October 28, 2021

Nicholas Dunlap and Megha Ganne were named the 2021 AJGA Boys and Girls Rolex Players of the year. (Photos: Getty Images)

Nicholas Dunlap and Megha Ganne traveled separate paths in 2021 to reach the same destination: AJGA Rolex Player of the Year award recipient. One was fueled by consistent dominance, the other with impressive resolve in the tensest of circumstances.

Dunlap, a 17-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., appeared on the leader board in nearly every event he entered in 2021, winning three times—most notably the U.S. Junior Amateur—finishing second in three other elite junior events and finishing outside the top five in just two of 11 tournaments. During the summer, he proved a match-play marvel, going 6-0 during his victory at the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National in June and 6-0 again in winning the USGA’s premier junior title at C.C. of North Carolina in July.

That latter win earned Dunlap, a verbal commit to play at the University of Alabama, a spot into next year’s U.S. Open at The Country Club.

“It's my first major,” Dunlap said. “I'm sure I'm probably going to be this nervous or even more. It's just going to be a learning experience for me, and I'm going to go into it with as much confidence as I can and play my game.”

Ganne was a winner, too, at the Scott Robertson Memorial in May, along with top-four finishes at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, Annika Invitational, Polo Golf Junior Classic and the Girls Junior PGA Championship. But the 17-year-old high school senior from Holmdel, N.J., gained the most attention for her play in a women’s major this summer, when she found her way on the leader board during the U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club outside San Francisco.

Ganne opened with a 67 to take a share of the early lead and remained just two shots back through 36 holes after a Friday 71. A third-round 72 put her in Sunday’s final threesome alongside eventual winner Yuko Saso and Lexi Thompson with a real chance at becoming only the second amateur to ever win the national championship.

A final-round six-over 77 dropped Ganne to T-14 but still secured low amateur honors as she remained one of the stories of the week thanks to her upbeat personality and laidback vibe.

“I feel like I knew that I was capable of having a week like that before going into the week,” said Ganne, who plans to play college golf at Stanford beginning next fall. “I always knew that part of me was in there. It just helped prove that it’s come out and I’m ready to do this more often.”

Ganne (front row, first on left) and Dunlap (back row third from left) were teammates on the 2021 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup team in September.

Maddie Meyer/PGA of America

The AJGA Rolex POY has been given out since 1978, yet this is the first year that an Alabama native has won the Boys award and the first year a New Jersey native claimed the Girls honor. Both will formally be recognized, along with all juniors named to the AJGA Rolex Junior All-America teams, during a virtual celebration on Dec. 3 when the AJGA honors.

Past winners of the POY include: Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Morgan Pressel, Ariya Jutanugarn, Patty Tavatanakit and Inbee Park.