University Place, Wash. – Good golf is about repetition. Doing the right things consistently is unquestionably one of the keys to success.
Young Patrick Cantlay seems to understand this.
Cantlay, 18, of Los Alamitos, Calif., advanced to the semifinals of the 110th U.S. Amateur Friday afternoon by outlasting Jed Dirksen of Hampton, Iowa, in 20 holes. He did it with steady play and with steadfast adherence to a mantra that he recited on several occasions after his two-putt par on the par-4 second hole in overtime was good enough to beat Dirksen, who missed a 5-footer to extend the match after he let two chances to close out Cantlay slide by in regulation.
The key today was not getting down on myself. Just letting me play my game, said Cantlay, who is preparing to begin his freshman year at UCLA. It’s very important to stick to my game plan and just do my routine and accept the shot that I hit.
Coached by Jamie Mulligan, whose stable of tour pupils include John Cook and Paul Goydos, Cantlay has been playing golf since he was 3 years old, so he ought to know how to stick to a routine. Mulligan, whom Cantlay has been working with since age 9, helps in that regard. So has Cook, with whom Cantlay has played a few holes at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif., where Mulligan is director of golf.
When someone like John Cook preaches to you the importance of just doing your own thing and not worrying about the other guy, that means something, Cantlay said.
Cantlay looked plenty worried on the 18th green, however, when Dirksen, playing in his first USGA event, sized up a 10-foot par putt to win the match. Cantlay turned his head; he couldn’t bear to watch. But Dirksen missed, and when Cantlay calmly holed a 3-footer for his par, the match was going extra holes.
Dirksen, 21, a senior at the University of Iowa, also had a 13-foot par putt on the 17th that would have given him the match after Cantlay bogeyed from a nearly identical spot behind the green. He couldn’t get that one to drop either.
I feel like I definitely let him off the hook. At this level, when you have two chances to win the match, you have to do it, and I didn’t, said Dirksen, who carried his own bag all week despite the fact that he had undergone an appendectomy a little more than two months ago, on June 11. It was a good match as far as being close, but I have to learn from the mistakes I made, and I made a lot of them today. I didn’t step it up when I needed to. I felt sure I was going to win; I just felt I threw it away.
Dirksen had worked hard to forge a 1-up lead after 14 holes. He trailed by two at the turn – despite Cantlay receiving a slow-playing warning on the sixth hole and the group playing while on the clock through No. 10. He finally generated some momentum when he holed birdie putts of 12 and 30 feet, respectively, at the 10th and 11th holes to square the match.
Dirksen then nosed ahead for his first lead at the 14th when Cantley found the deep fairway bunker and made bogey.
But Cantlay wouldn’t give away another hole. He got up and down to save par from 11 feet at the par-3 15th after finding the yawning right bunker with his tee shot. At 16, he nailed a 4-footer for par after Dirksen lipped out a 40-footer for birdie that would have put him two ahead.
It was Cantlay’s turn with a chance to win the match at the long par-4 first hole, the 19th of the day, but his 26-footer came up short. But he played a stress-free 20th, putting his approach hole high 16 feet away for birdie while Dirksen’s second shot came up well short of the green. Cantlay almost won it with his birdie putt, the ball grazing the left edge, but the conceded par was good enough when Dirksen, who had putted up from 45 feet for his third, yanked his par try.
Cantlay faces All-American Peter Uilhein of Orlando, Fla., at 8:45 a.m. PDT Saturday in the second of two semifinals after Uihlein eliminated Oklahoma State University teammate Morgan Hoffmann, 1-up.
It feels great. I’m very excited and happy to be here, Cantlay responded when asked about advancing to the final four. You always think you have the capability of making it, but you never know.
I feel I can hit most every shot. I feel like this golf course makes you hit almost every single shot in your arsenal – low, high, right to left, left to right, said Cantlay. It’s just taking what I’ve learned how to do and practiced and learning what holes and what shots that I need to use.
Dave Shedloski is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship Web sites.