20-year-old shot a 60 at Travelers last year
If golf prodigy Patrick Cantlay had any last doubts about turning pro after his sophomore year at UCLA, they were dispelled by his arrival this week for the Travelers Championship in the suburbs of Hartford, Conn.
A year ago at TPC River Highlands, Cantlay shot a 60 in the second round, the lowest score ever on the PGA Tour by an amateur, to take a four-shot lead in his second tour event.
On Tuesday afternoon Cantlay made it official, announcing that he would tee off Thursday in the Travelers as a professional.
|When » Thursday-Sunday|
|Where » TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Conn.|
|TV » Golf Channel/CBS|
"I think this timing makes sense for me, being able to start somewhere where I'm comfortable and I have good memories," Cantlay told reporters. "I feel ready and comfortable with being a pro and trying to be as good as I can be."
Cantlay, 20, probably was ready a year ago. After winning the 2011 Jack Nicklaus Award as the top golfer in Division I, he made the cut in five of five PGA Tour events. He also was runner-up in the U.S. Amateur to Kelly Kraft, who has since turned pro.
If Cantlay had been eligible for a paycheck last year, he would have collected more than $300,000. On Tuesday, he joked about his former status as a carefree amateur.
"[Last year] I got to a hole at the U.S. Open, my caddie turns to me and goes, 'Why not hit driver. You're an amateur. It's not like you're going to lose anything,'?" Cantlay said.
Phil Mickelson (Arizona State) and Tom Watson (Stanford) remained in school to receive their degrees. But others such as Jack Nicklaus (Ohio State), Tiger Woods (Stanford) and Bubba Watson (Georgia) left early to pursue professional golf.
Cantlay had another stellar season at UCLA, winning the Haskins Award, which goes to the nation's top college golfer, and the McCormack Medal as the world's top-ranked amateur. He made the cut at the Masters and tied for 41st on Sunday at the U.S. Open, making him 3-for-3 making cuts in major championships. Cantlay said the extra year in school has provided added confidence and self-awareness.
"I know my own game and limitations even better than I did last year," Cantlay said. "Any time you can play in a tour event, especially the three majors that I've played, I think you learn a lot about your game and what it takes."
Cantlay began playing at age 6. His father, Steve, is former club champion at Virginia Country Club in Laguna Beach, Calif., where PGA Tour veterans Paul Goydos, John Cook, John Mallinger and John Merrick are members. Cantlay's coach is Virginia Country Club pro Jamie Mulligan. Cantlay has signed with Mark Steinberg, also the agent for Woods.
Perhaps none of the high-level advice has been as confidence-building as his 60 last year in the Travelers.
"I realized for the first time that if I played really well, I could compete on any stage," Cantlay said. "That was big just for my own personal confidence knowing that my best is good enough to be the best."