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U.S. Amateur down to the semifinals

by Ron Balicki ERIN, Wis. - Patrick Cantlay was 2-down with two holes to play. It certainly appeared as though he were about to join his other two 2011 Walker Cup teammates in elimination in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal round of the 111th U.S. Amateur Championship at Erin Hills Golf Club.

Instead, he showed why he is the world’s No. 1 amateur.

Cantlay stormed back, winning the final two holes and then clinched the victory on the 19th hole over unheralded Max Buckley, a senior at SMU.

It marked the second time in his last three matches that Cantlay came back to win in extra holes after being 2-down with two to play. He was in that situation on Thursday against Walker Cup teammate Russell Henley. Cantlay birdied the final two holes of regulation and won it on the 21st hole with a par.

His overtime win Friday afternoon certainly helped save some face within the Walker Cup representation ranks. Earlier in the afternoon both Peter Uihlein, the defending champion, and Patrick Rodgers were sent home.

Jordan Russell, a senior at Texas A&M, defeated Uihlein, 2 and 1, while Kelly Kraft, a recent graduate at SMU and coming off a 23- hole win in the morning round, rolled past Rodgers, 6 and 4.

Cantlay will face Russell in Saturday’s opening semifinal match while Kraft will take on GB&I Walker Cupper Jack Senior, a 1-up winner over two-time U.S. Junior champion Jordan Spieth.

Buckley was trying to become Mad Max the Giant Slayer and almost did just that against Cantlay, the college freshman and player of the year at UCLA last season.

Cantlay was certainly considered the heavy favorite coming into the match, sporting plenty of impressive credentials in college and amateur play as well as on the PGA Tour where he finished no worse than 21st in his four starts, including the U.S. Open.

Buckley, on the other hand, has hardly played much competition golf the last two summers, devoting his time to his summer job at Oppenheimer Funds. His claim to fame - a victory this year at The Hockster, one of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s major tournaments.

But for 16 holes, Buckley never buckled. Only six of their 19 holes were halved as the two punched and counter punched their way around this 7,729-yard course that will serve as venue for the 2017 U.S. Open.

Cantlay, who lost to eventual champion Uihlein in last year’s semifinals, went on top first, winning Nos. 3 and 4 with pars. Buckley won the fifth with a par; Cantalay the sixth with birdie; and Buckely the seventh (birdie) and ninth (par) to put the match all square at the turn.

Cantlay won the 12th with a par then Buckley made his charge, winning the 13th with a par and 15 and 16 with birdies.

“I knew when I was on the tee box (at 17) it wasn’t over,” Cantlay said. “I was in the same spot a couple of matches before. I knew I just had to dig down deep and make something happen.”

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He won 17 with a conceded par after chipping to within a foot and Buckley missing his 10- foot par putt. Cantlay then won the par-5, 18th with a birdie.

At the 19th hole, par-5, first, Cantlay hit two solid shots to just in front of the green. Buckley, meanwhile, hit his third shot into a hazard and hacked his way out in the thick rough, some 25 yards short of the green.

Cantlay putted two feet past the hole and Buckley’s chip rolled some 10 feet beyond the pin.

“He missed, I made and that was that,” Cantaly said matter of factly.

“It’s nice to know I can hit good shots coming down to the wire under the pressure,” Cantlay said. “Of course, I’d rather just have a good lead instead.

“So far it’s been a very mentally taxing (match play) tournament, especially my last three matches,” he said. “But, at this stage it’s taxing on everyone. But hopefully I’ll be able to draw on my experiences (for semifinals) from last year and from this week. It’s nice to know I was there before and know I can play and what it’s like.”
ABOUT THE U.S. Amateur

The U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship, was first played in 1895 at Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island. The event, which has no age restriction, is open to those with a Handicap Index of 2.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. It is the pre-eminent amateur competition in the world. Applications are typically placed online, starting the third week in April at www.usga.org.

View Complete Tournament Information

Results For U.S. Amateur Golf Championship
Place  Pts
WinTXKelly KraftDenton, TX2000
Runner-upCAPatrick CantlayLos Alamitos, CA1500
SemifinalsTXJordan RussellBryan, TX1000
SemifinalsEnglandJack SeniorEngland1000
QuarterfinalsFLPeter UihleinOrlando, FL700

View full results for U.S. Amateur Golf Championship

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