GLENVIEW, Ill. (Aug. 6, 2011) – Ethan Tracy sank a 20-foot birdie putt to win the 13th hole and then held off Patrick Cantlay, the world’s top-ranked amateur, to win 1-up at the 109th Western Amateur on Saturday at North Shore Country Club.
Neither player held more than a 1-up lead at any point in the 18-hole title match, and both played the final eight holes in 3 under par.
“I knew I was playing well enough to beat anyone, and it came down that way,” said Tracy, an Arkansas senior from Hilliard, Ohio, whose best previous finish this summer was eighth place at the Ohio State Amateur. “I definitely know Patrick is a great player and has done some great things this year in college and as an amateur, but I knew if I went out there and played my own game, I’d be fine.”
By sticking to his game plan, Tracy was able to record his first amateur title of any mention. He did so by taking down Cantlay, Golfweek's college player of the year last season as a freshman at UCLA who this summer finished in the top 25 of his four PGA Tour starts.
“I just didn’t play all that great this afternoon,” said Cantlay, a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur and one of four players named this past week as selections to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team. “I never really had a stretch where I felt comfortable, especially with the putter.
“I hit a lot of good putts, but not much really went in,” Cantlay said. “But Ethan played great. And, overall it was a good week. Things like this happen. You can’t win every time in golf.”
In the final match, Cantlay won the first hole with a par, but Tracy won No. 4 with a par to square the match. Tracy then won the sixth and Cantlay the eighth, both with birdies.
Tracy went back to 1 up with a par at No. 10, but, he says, the 11th hole probably was the key to the match. Cantlay ran in a 35-foot birdie putt and appeared to get the match back to all square, but Tracy came right back and drained his 25-footer to halve the hole.
“To make that putt on 11 on top of his long birdie was huge,” said Tracy, who was second at the 2010 Players Amateur. “For me, that was a key in the round.”
Still, Cantlay came back with a birdie at the 12th to again even things out, but Tracy returned the favor at the 13th with what would prove to be the match-clinching putt.
Still, things got tense as Tracy came to the 18th with his 1-up lead. He pulled his tee shot into the trees in the deep rough, about 6 feet from the out-of-bounds marker.
“I had no shot to the green, so I just tried to play the smart shot out,” he said.
He pitched out to the fairway, still about 10 yards behind Cantlay’s drive. His third shot settled 10 feet left of the hole. Cantlay then hit his approach about 15 feet short-right of the hole.
Cantlay’s birdie putt to extend the match hung on the right lip of the cup, and he had to settle for par. Taking his time and studying the putt carefully, Tracy then rolled in his par and staked claim to one of the most prestigious titles in amateur golf.
“I got a good read and made a good stroke (on the final putt),” Tracy said. “I got a good roll on the ball and on the right line, and it went in.”
Asking how he felt, knowing that his name would be on the championship trophy with some of the greatest to play the game, Tracy said, “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but I know it’s really special.”
Tracy tied for 11th in the 72-hole stroke-play qualifying segment of the event with a 3-under 281 score. He won his Sweet 16 match over Derek Ernst, 3 and 2; beat two-time U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jordan Spieth in the quarterfinals, 2 and 1; and edged Cheng-Tsung Pan of Taiwan, 1 up, in Saturday morning’s semifinals.
“Without a doubt, this is the best I’ve played over this kind of stretch,” Tracy said. “From the last two rounds of stroke play and all through match play, I was really rolling the ball well and striking the ball well.
“It was just a great week, and to win it all makes it the greatest of it all,” he said.