ERIN, Wis. – Patrick Cantlay’s impressive summer just keeps getting better.
The UCLA star will face Kelly Kraft for the U.S. Amateur championship after both players won their semifinal matches at Erin Hills on Saturday.
A win in Sunday’s final would be another big step for Cantlay, a player who many are pointing to as a future star in the professional ranks - especially after proving he belonged in an appearance at the U.S. Open.
“It’s been very special,” Cantlay said. “Probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.”
Cantlay, the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur, beat Jordan Russell 4 and 3 on Saturday. Kraft, of Denton, Texas, beat England’s Jack Senior 3 and 2 in the other semifinal.
Kraft, 22, has played out his eligibility at SMU but still has a year of school left. He’ll have a tough test in the final against a player with Cantlay’s credentials, but says he’s up for the challenge.
“We’re both playing the same golf course tomorrow, and we’ve both made it this far, so we’re both playing pretty good,” Kraft said. “I like my chances out there tomorrow.”
After stroke play to set the field earlier in the week, the remainder of the tournament is conducted in a match play format. Cantlay and Kraft will play 36 holes in Sunday’s final, with the first 18-hole round beginning at 8:30 a.m.
Cantlay, 19, is going into his sophomore season at UCLA. He was the low amateur at the U.S. Open, tying for 21st place. He also tied for 24th at the Travelers Championship in June, shooting a 10-under 60 in the second round.
Cantlay currently sits atop the world amateur rankings maintained by golf’s R&A governing body.
Uihlein beat Cantlay in the semifinals of the 2010 U.S. Amateur.
“I didn’t feel nearly as nervous as I did in the semifinal this year as I did last year, so I think that has something to do with the all the tournaments I’ve played,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay’s match with Russell was all square after six holes, but Cantlay birdied the 617-yard, par-5 seventh hole to go 1-up in the match. Cantlay bogeyed the next hole but still added to his lead as Russell took a double bogey.
“That kind of got me started,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay never relinquished the lead from there.
“Once Patrick got the momentum, he just played like he always does,” Russell said.
Russell, 22, from Texas A&M, beat Uihlein in the quarterfinals; Uihlein called Russell the “most underrated player in college golf.”
“This week was great,” Russell said. “I mean, making it this far, I had some really tough matches early on and played really well in two others.”
Kraft took the lead on the third hole and never trailed again to Senior, who was trying to become the first English player to win the U.S. Amateur since Harold Hilton in 1911.
“I still have one more round to go tomorrow, so I don’t want to get too high before then,” Kraft said. “Kind of want to keep it at an even keel until then, and then I can hopefully do some celebrating after tomorrow.”