Nothing could stop Patrick Cantlay from finishing the 2011 amateur season as winner of the coveted Mark H McCormack Medal as the world’s leading amateur. Not even a heartbreaking loss in the US Amateur Championship.Cantlay lost the US Amateur to Kelly Kraft, but there is no doubting his world supremacy this year. After 13 weeks as the world number one on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Cantlay finished the season atop a group of highly talented amateurs.
“It’s special,” Cantlay said about the award he will receive at the Walker Cup. “Any time you’re recognised as the best in your respective sport and level, it means a lot. I’m very honoured.”
Cantlay began the 111th US Amateur Championship at Erin Hills, Wisconsin, as one of the favourites and confirmed that status when he fought his way through to the final against Kelly Kraft.
On paper it seemed a mismatch since Kraft was 46 places below Cantlay on the WAGR table. However, that old saying about anything can happen in match play came true. Kraft, winner of the Trans-Miss and Texas amateurs this summer, bettered the talented UCLA player by two holes in the 36-hole final.
With the gold Havemeyer Trophy by his side, Kraft couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s such an honour to win this championship.”
Things got better for the recent graduate of Southern Methodist University when US Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve handed him a spot on the US Walker team. He also earns invites to the Masters, and next year’s US Open and Open Championships, the rewards that go with being crowned America’s national champion.
Kraft narrowed the gap between himself and Cantlay, moving 34 places on the WAGR table to 13th in the world. However Cantlay is without doubt the outstanding amateur of the year. He finished low amateur in the US Open, placed 24th in the Travelers Championship. His second round 60 in the latter championship set a PGA Tour record for the lowest round by an amateur. He was 20th in the AT&T Championship and ninth in the Canadian Open.
Back among the unpaid players he won the Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship and placed second in the Western Amateur Championship.
Cantlay rightly deserves to be crowned world number one for 2011.
Girls not old enough to buy an alcoholic drink rule the world of amateur golf. That much is obvious from even a cursory glance at the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings.
In fact, some of these “women” aren’t even old enough to drive.
Lydia Ko and Cecilia Cho of New Zealand have held the world’s number one and two spots respectively for most of the summer. Yet Ko is only 14 and Cho just 16. They can’t celebrate with anything stronger than a good stiff soft drink.
No champagne for Cho this week after winning the New Zealand Under 19-Championship against girls much older than her.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn takes her place at world number 10 at age 15. She’s had a string of successes this year, including the Junior PGA Championship. Indeed, 17-year-old sister Moriya is a pretty good player, but Ariya is ranked 34 places above her on the WAGR table.
England’s Charley Hull is another who fits the term precocious. The 15-year-old from Woburn Golf Club, Ian Poulter’s home club, is ranked 18th in the world. She counts the English Women's Stroke Play Championship among her many triumphs this year.
Hull isn’t alone in catching Poulter’s eye when he practices at Woburn. Sixteen-year-old clubmate Lauren Taylor won Poulter’s junior day this year. That wasn’t surprising since she began the event as reigning Ladies’ British Amateur Champion.
Taylor became the youngest winner of the Ladies’ British Amateur when she won at Royal Portrush this year.
Get used to other youngsters stealing big titles from older opposition. It’s becoming the norm.