The search goes on for the Next Great American Golfer as yet another non-American won another major championship last week, but the United States Open at least identified a pair of Next Great American Amateurs.
UCLA freshman Patrick Cantlay turned heads with a back-nine 30 in the Open’s second round and won the traditional silver medal as the low amateur. Cantlay, who won this year’s Jack Nicklaus Award, given to the nation’s top college player, shot a closing 72 to finish even par, tied for 21st.
Cantlay outdueled Georgia’s Russell Henley for the low am honor. Henley, a University of Georgia star who has already won a Nationwide tour event, played his way onto the leaderboard and was tied for third at one point in the second round. He didn’t finish the way he wanted after a second-round 69, playing the last 27 holes in eight over par. His tournament total was 288, four over.
Henley had a nice 18th-hole moment, reveling in the cheers from the crowds filling the amphitheater-like setting. When he urged them to pump it up, many fans jumped to their feet and led a loud second wave of cheers. “That,” said Henley, 22, who plans to turn pro this fall after the Walker Cup, “was fun.”
Next up for Cantlay, 19, from Los Alamitos, Calif.: This week’s Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn.
You may have seen Cantlay’s most memorable shot. On Saturday, he holed a bunker shot at the 15th that bounced hard once and flew into the cup. The highlight was shown repeatedly on TV. “I got a little lucky,” said Cantlay, who admitted he’d seen the clip. “My friends made me watch it. I thought it was cool.”
Asked if he felt like a rock star for the loud reception he drew Sunday at the 18th green as the low amateur, Cantlay grinned and said, “A little bit, yeah. I don’t really know what a rock star feels like. But it feels great.”