By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Patrick Cantlay’s professional career will come. For now, he’s just trying to enjoy his days as an amateur while he still can. After all, the latter carries some perks, like getting to stay in the Crow’s Nest at Augusta National.
The UCLA sophomore is playing in his first Masters after finishing runner-up at the U.S. Amateur. Per tradition, he’s sharing the Crow’s Nest with U.S. Public Links winner Corbin Mills and Kelly Kraft, who beat Cantlay to win the U.S. Amateur last August at Erin Hills.
“Coming in on Sunday night, I came in late and no one was around,” Cantlay said. “We are the only three staying up there this week. It's not too crowded or anything. It’s really special waking up in the morning and seeing the place empty. It’s pretty cool.”
By the time Cantlay tees off Thursday at 11:52 a.m. ET with Ian Poulter and 2007 Masters champ Zach Johnson (another tradition is pairing amateurs with past champions), he’ll have logged at least eight rounds at Augusta National. None, however, will be as special as the first.
Cantlay played that day with his father, grandfather and member Jim Hoch. He doesn’t even remember what he made on the first hole, but he remembers being awed by the size of Augusta National.
“On TV, it looks really tree-lined and narrow,” Cantlay said. “But out here you can see all the other holes and it feels open, especially 9 and 18 greens when there are no people or grandstands. There’s no framing other than the bunkers.”
The undulations in the greens also stood out -- “You can’t see any of that stuff on TV,” he continued. “A lot of the greens are big on paper and in real life are not very big. Your landing areas are very small. That was the biggest shock coming here. I've adjusted pretty well, and I feel comfortable coming into the greens.”
He’s certainly looked it, at least in his limited appearances in the pro game. In his first four appearances on the PGA TOUR last year, Cantlay finished in the top 25 each time, which included a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open at Congressional and a tie for 24th a week later in Hartford, where he shot a course-record 60 in the second round.
Cantlay added that he’s not worried about turning pro at the moment, “because if I stay really engaged in the present, then the future will take care of itself.”
For now he’ll just try to stick to a piece of advice fellow Southern Californian John Cook gave him: “Golf is just golf no matter where you're playing, Long Beach City Amateur or the Masters. Either way, it's still get the ball in the hole as fast as you can.”