Cantlay: Hello, Steiny; Goodbye, UCLA…?
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Cantlay eyes PGA Tour card

There’s been chatter over the last month at least that Patrick Cantlay, the top-ranked amateur who just finished his sophomore year at UCLA, is expected to turn professional and sign with Tiger Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports. After Cantlay finished T41 at the U.S. Open on Sunday, he said he hasn’t “really made a decision yet” *coughBScough* and planned to sit down with his family to discuss it, according to GolfChannel.com’s Rex Hoggard:

Cantlay, 20, who recently completed his sophomore season at UCLA and was runner-up at last year’s U.S. Amateur, is playing next week’s Travelers Championship and is scheduled to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon at TPC River Highlands.

Despite Cantlay’s denial, sources say he plans to sign with Tiger Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg with Excel Sports Management. GolfChannel.com asked Steinberg about his relationship with Cantlay Sunday at Olympic and he declined to comment.

Like I said, I’ve heard from a reliable source the same and I’m not surprised this announcement is coming right after the U.S. Open.

What’s interesting is Cantlay was adamant last year that he was going to finish college and graduate with a degree from UCLA. He was repeatedly asked about his status after his success at the 2011 U.S. Open, where he finished T21 and received Low Amateur honors, and placed well at three PGA Tour events, including T9 at the RBC Canadian Open.

Excerpts from Cantlay’s transcript after he made the cut at Congressional last year:

Q. Do you have any kind of timeline for turning pro and has your performance here made any difference? Are you thinking about it any more now after shooting —

PATRICK CANTLAY: No, my timeline is after I graduate from UCLA.

Q. So this changes nothing?


Q. What did you say your future plans were?


Q. So the earliest you would entertain going pro would be what?

PATRICK CANTLAY: After I get a degree.

Q. This year you’re talking about?

PATRICK CANTLAY: No, I just finished my freshman year, so I have three more years at UCLA.

Q. So no matter what you did, you’d stick it out at UCLA?


Then here’s this from the following week at the 2011 Travelers Championship:

Q. Can you talk about the decision process that goes into when and whether — or obviously you will, but when you’ll turn pro. How is that all working in your mind?

PATRICK CANTLAY: Yeah. I’ve been getting that question a lot these last couple weeks, but I just think that it’s important to get a degree, because you never know what’s going to happen. And I think that turning pro is always going to be there.

I can play on the TOUR for 25 years if I wait six years to turn pro. So you know, playing amateur golf is really fun, and I’d love to play on a couple Walker Cup teams. I’ve heard that’s just fantastic. I’d like to play well in the U. S. Amateur and try and win that one. That would mean a lot to me.

But there’s really just — there’s no rush for me to turn pro. You can play a lot of great amateur golf, and I can still mature my game while I’m at college, and I can get better and get physically better, mentally better and at the same time earn a degree.

Obviously, circumstances changed and he’s just a kid, so even though we may have seen him turning pro early, I admired his resolve in wanting to graduate from college. What was the main reason for the flip-flop?

Well, this year will be the last opportunity for amateurs and mini-tour players, etc., to qualify for the PGA Tour directly. Yes, we’re on Q-school deathwatch. The Tour is revamping the qualification process, so players will have a much harder chance of earning their PGA Tour cards in the new system — details have yet to be sorted out on how it will work exactly — that is supposed to go into effect starting in 2013. Instead, players will have to spend a year on the Nationwide Tour first.

Expect a record high number of players to sign up for Q-school this fall…

Inspiring message for the Tour to send: Hey kids, quit school!

Well, for some guys, they don’t really need degrees if they know what they want to do for a living and that’s to play golf, but it’s never a sure thing. What if you get injured? It never hurts to have a back-up plan, but college isn’t for everyone. However, I think it is essential for character development and maturing into a well-rounded individual.

Cantlay is a unique situation, where he’s clearly ready for the pros, but if you’re good enough, then what’s the rush, right? I guess boredom and money for starters.

(Getty Images/Harry How)