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Why the world's top-ranked amateur golfer is staying in school despite having earned his PGA Tour card

April 18, 2024
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David Cannon

Gordon Sargent, the world's top-ranked amateur golfer, announced on Thursday that he'll be returning to Vanderbilt for his senior season.

It was a decision that thrilled his teammates and coaches, but surprised others. After all, Sargent had already earned his PGA Tour card for the rest of this season and next year. Was he really going to pass that up? Not exactly.

Sargent will defer the status he earned under the new PGA Tour University Accelerated program. That means following his senior season in Nashville, he'll be able to turn pro next spring, play out the remainder of the tour's 2025 season and then play all of 2026.

In an interview with PGATour.com, Sargent explained the reasoning behind his thinking. That included seeing how well Ludvig Aberg, who just finished runner-up at the Masters and qualified for the Ryder Cup just months after turning pro last year, has fared taking a similar career path.

"My dream is playing on the PGA Tour," Sargent said. "With having the same status if I come back to school for one year, it was kind of a no-brainer. I can still take advantage of another year of school, be with my teammates, get my degree and continue to get better."

The long-hitting Sargent said he also talked to Nick Dunlap, the Alabama sophomore who turned pro in January after winning the American Express as an amateur. Dunlap, who called that "the easiest, hardest decision I've ever made," wasn't able to defer the two-year PGA Tour exemption he earned from his victory in Palm Springs.

"If you talk to anybody who's played college golf, they really do say it's the best time of your life," Sargent said. "I definitely valued that. I don't think anybody was going to be mad at me if I left or mad at me if I stayed. But after reviewing with my parents, coaches and team-wise, it just seemed like it was the best thing for me."

Sargent, who turns 21 next month, won the 2022 NCAA individual championship as a freshman. He first reached No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking in February of 2023 and he was low amateur at the 2023 U.S. Open. Sargent also missed the cut at the 2023 Masters after receiving a special invitation from Augusta National, the first amateur to receive one since 2000. He played on the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team in September.

Sargent earned his tour card in October by surpassing the PGA Tour University Accelerated's 20-point threshold based on a combination of college, amateur and professional events. Under the program, a player has three NCAA eligible years to get to 20 points. He told Golf Digest that his decision was also aided by signing NIL deals with Nike and Titleist.

"I mean knowing there's a PGA TOUR card still waiting for you, it gives you a lot of freedom if you need to make some changes," Sargent told PGATour.com. "Then off the golf course, just continue to mature as a person and just better prepare myself for the future."