Patrick Cantlay, the 19-year-old golfing phenom from Alamitos, CA, who plays on Coach Derek Freeman’s UCLA Bruins squad, has gotten his summer off to a busy start. A full slate of golf accomplishments, played out among the top collegiate and professional players in the world, has led to a record-breaking opening in his first regular PGA Tour event, the Traveler’s Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT.
To get things started, Cantlay finished in second place at the NCAA Championship Tournament in Stillwater, OK. Next, he pops over to Columbus, Ohio and collects the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is given to the nation’s top collegiate player each year – and while he’s in the area, he plays in the local sectional qualifier for the US Open, breezing in with a two-round total of 135, 3 strokes behind co-leaders Chez Reavie and Brandt Jobe, in a field that was thick with PGA Tour pros fresh off of play at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament.
After that whirlwind start – so far so good – Cantlay traveled on to Stamwich, CT, where he played on the USA’s winning Palmer Cup team, contributing 1-1⁄2 points with a tie and a win in the Saturday & Sunday singles matches.
Another hop, skip, and a jump (it’s a good thing all those little Eastern states are so close together…) and Cantlay is in Bethesda, MD, playing in the fourth U.S. Open to be held at exclusive Congressional Country Club – where he not only makes the cut (one of only 3 amateur players to do so, and the youngest), but plays to an impressive even-par score of 284, taking Low Amateur honors. Patrick’s score placed him ahead of many notable names from the pro ranks, the likes of World #1 Luke Donald; 3-time Masters champion and 2005 PGA champion, World #6 Phil Mickelson, and 2007 & 2008 British Open champion, and 2008 PGA champion, Padraig Harrington.
Bethesda is not too far from Cromwell, CT, where the Traveler’s Championship is being held during the week following the US Open, so Patrick takes the organizers of the Traveler’s up on their offer of a sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament. Rain delay prevented Patrick from starting his first round on Thursday, so he ended up playing all 36 holes of his opening rounds in one day. After opening up with 3-under 67 in his first round, Cantlay laid a blistering course-record 60 on the rain-softened course in his second round, on Friday afternoon, carding a 13-under score of 127 for the two rounds – a 4-stroke lead on his closest competitors, 4 players clustered at -9. Cantlay’s round of 60 is the first ever carded by an amateur player in a PGA Tour event.
It remains to be seen how Cantlay will handle sleeping on a lead at a PGA Tour event, though there is one player with a chance of catching him before the rain-shortened second round is officially complete. Argentina’s Andres Romero, who famously bungled a late lead in the 2007 Open Championship with a bogey/double-bogey finish to miss a playoff by one stroke, is sitting at -9 through 5 holes of his second round. If he continues on the pace he established in Round 1 through the conclusion of his second round, he could very well outpace Patrick by the time official 2nd-round play is completed.
As an amateur Cantlay would get a nice trophy were he to win – and the $1.08M winner’s check would be turned over to the lucky second-place finisher. Cantlay is standing firm – so far – on his position that he will complete his education at UCLA before thinking of turning pro, but the thought of a million-dollar-plus payday at age 19 has got to be tempting. Veteran PGA Tour pro Paul Goydos, who is known for his dry wit, commented on Cantlay’s resolution to stay in college.
“I feel bad for the kids in college,” Goydos said. “He said he’s going to stay in for four years? In four years I’ll be 51. That sounds like a good deal for me. He should get a graduate degree.” Goydos is also coached by Cantlay’s teacher, PGA teaching pro John Mulligan.
Whatever conclusion the weekend brings, Cantlay will soon have another chance to test his mettle against the PGA Tour’s pros – he has been extended an invitation to play in next weekend’s AT&T National at Aronimink Golf Club, Pennsylvania.