Top amateur Cantlay turns pro, joins Tiger’s camp
On Tuesday of this week the opening line of the Wikipedia entry for Patrick Cantlay read: “Patrick Cantlay (born March 17, 1992) is an American amateur golfer who is the number one golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.”
Wednesday it read, “Patrick Cantlay … is an American professional golfer who was the number one golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.”
What a difference a day makes.
With a simple announcement and the signing of representation documents with Tiger Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg, Cantlay went from the pinnacle of the amateur scene to one of the many young hopefuls on Tour.
“I feel like it’s time for me to play as a pro,” Cantlay said during a news conference at the Traveler’s Championship. “I think it’s best for my golf game, and that’s just what my — when I talked it over with my mom and my dad and (swing coach) Jamie Mulligan, that’s just what we thought would be best for me and my game right now.”
Cantlay has been the best amateur player in the world for some time. His resume at that level is impressive, including runner-up finishes in the Western Open and the U.S. Amateur Championship. Cantlay was also the California State High School Championship, an honor previously held by Rickie Fowler. He was was the PAC-10 Player of the Year in his freshman year at UCLA, and won the Ben Hogan Award for top collegiate golfer in the country and the Mark McCormack Medal in 2011 as the top ranked amateur in the world. The latter included an invitation to the 2012 U.S. Open, where he finished tied for 41st.
The decision to turn professional was a move that came as no surprise to the golf world, as Cantlay had displayed talents ranging from the precocious (low amateur and a T-47 finish at this year’s Masters) to the prodigious — he fired a 60 at last year’s Travelers Championship, the lowest round ever recorded by an amateur in a PGA Tour event). Cantlay will make his pro debut this week at the 2012 Travelers Championship. In addition to his proven abilities, Cantlay’s decision was likely influenced by the major changes to the PGA Tour’s qualifying school and Nationwide Tour that take effect next year.
Cantlay, who has carded four top-25 finishes in eight career Tour starts clearly has the game to win enough money to make him comfortable for the rest of his life. The question is whether he has the mental fortitude to withstand the grind of the every day Tour as well as the fireworks of the four majors and various international Cup events. By signing with Steinberg, a key player in Team Tiger, Cantlay has, fairly or unfairly, set the expectations just a little higher. Whenever you cast your lot with a living legend, just earning a living probably won’t be enough.