-- AP Photo
CROMWELL, Conn. (June 19, 2012) -- Usher in a new era in professional golf. Perhaps we'll call it the Patrick Cantlay era.
Cantlay, the unassuming yet extremely talented sophomore from UCLA and current top-ranked amateur player in the world, took what will naturally be seen as the logical next step in his already impressive career Tuesday, announcing that he will become a professional golfer.
"I learned a lot and developed a lot and I've played really well this last year," he said during press conference at the Travelers Championship, announcing his intentions. "I feel like it's time for me to play as a pro.
"I think it's best for my game."
His decision was never an if, of course. It was only a matter of when. During the week of the Travelers Championship just a few days ahead of the tournament he took control of with a second-round 60 last year before finally finishing 21st seems like a terrific time for his decision.
Cantlay, thanks to plenty of success while an amateur, will use a total of six sponsor exemptions to try and earn his PGA Tour card without needing Q-School. After this week at the Travelers Championship, Cantlay will play in the AT&T National in Washington, D.C. and the Greenbrier Classic early next month.
If only his amateur career accomplishments could have worked more in his favor now that he is a pro, he'd already be relatively high in the World Golf Rankings. Following in the footsteps of fellow southern Californian Rickie Fowler, Cantlay will begin his PGA career with quite the list of amateur and NCAA accomplishments.
Cantlay was the low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open and this year's masters; he also made the cut, finishing tied for 41st last week at the U.S. Open. He received numerous accolades during his two years at UCLA, including the Haskins Award, Jack Nicklaus Award, Mark H. McCormack Medal and the Ben Hogan Award.
Those accolades, of course, came after some serious on-course success. Last year, Cantlay won the Southern California Amateur and the NCAA's West Regional. He was also the runner-up at the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA Championship. His string of PGA Tour great play in professional events included stops at the Frys.com Oepn, AT&T National and the RBC Canadian Open, where he tied for ninth. He was also a member of the United States Walker Cup squad.
"I am so grateful to UCLA and the NCAA for the relationships I've formed and the opportunities I've had to compete and develop at the collegiate level," he said. "I have tremendous passion and respect for the game of golf and can't wait for the challenge of taking my game to the next level."
The idea to turn pro in time for the Travelers is no small coincidence for Cantlay. He played so well here last year and it does, of course, fall directly after the U.S. Open. Starting his professional career at an event he has already enjoyed tremendous success is a smart move for young rookie.
"I have a lot of good memories coming out here," he said. "It (was) my second Tour event and I played it just right after the U.S. Open last year and it was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to having a good week."
The added year of experience in crucial events --- both amateur and professional --- certainly doesn't hurt his chances of succeeding this week and beyond. From last year's momentum-building performance here at TPC River Highlands, he has grown quite a bit.
"I think I have a lot more experience and I know my own game and limitations even better than I did last year," Cantlay said. "You know, I've played five or six tour events and I think any time you can play in a Tour event, especially the three Majors I've played, you learn a lot about your game and what it takes.
"And I feel comfortable playing in that type of environment."