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TED S. WARREN, AP
Former Servite standout Patrick Cantlay, now a freshman at UCLA, will make his U.S. Open debut this week at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

Cantlay wants to make history at U.S. Open

OCVARSITY.COM

It's something so difficult to achieve that Tiger Woods couldn't pull it off. Neither could Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer. And in golf, it's hard to get much better than that.

A first-time participant has won just five of the 110 U.S. Opens, and the last time it happened was 1913.

Patrick Cantlay, though, isn't one of those aw-shucks-I-am-just-happy-to-be-here players, so even though the odds are definitely against him, this U.S. Open rookie said he's in it to win it this weekend in Bethesda, Md., at Congressional Country Club.

He tees off at 9:51 a.m. in Thursday's first round.

"That doesn't mean I am going to be able to do it," the former Servite CIF state champion and UCLA record-setting freshman golfer said. "Every time I tee it up, though, I am out to win. You have to have high expectations."

Cantlay isn't the average amateur who pays 150 bucks to enter a local qualifier hoping to make it this far.

He's the top-ranked collegiate golfer in the nation, according to GolfWeek, and a four-time winner this season for the Bruins, including a victory at the NCAA West Regional in San Diego.

Earlier this month, Cantlay won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation's top Division 1 golfer, and on Monday, GolfWeek picked him as its player of the year.

He also has been granted a sponsor's exemption to compete in the Travelers Championship, a PGA Tour event that begins June 23 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.

However, Cantlay said he isn't in a hurry to turn pro, insisting that he's staying all four years at UCLA. And he's putting in the work to prove it. Between rounds during the Palmer Cup this past weekend in Greenwich, Conn., he wrote a term paper and took a test in his hotel room.

On Saturday, he won his match against Nick MacAndrew, 3 and 1, at The Stanwich Club to help the United States beat Europe, 13-11, in the Ryder Cup-style tournament for collegiate players.

"Right now, it's all about amateur golf because I want to get my degree," Cantlay said. "Hopefully, one day I can play on the PGA Tour."

Cantlay already has proved he can compete with the pros when he became one of the 10 amateurs worldwide to advance to the U.S. Open through sectional qualifying.

He shot a first-round 65 at The Lakes Golf & Country Club in Westerville, Ohio, and finished tied for fourth with a 9-under-par 135. It put him one shot ahead of D.A. Points, who is ranked 24th in the FedEx Cup standings after winning more than $1.6 million this season.

Byron Nelson Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas were also in Cantlay's sectional qualifier. They both missed the cut and failed to earn a tee time at Congressional.

"It didn't matter to me who was in there, though. I wasn't out to beat this guy because he was in the PGA Tour," Cantlay said. "The goal was to get a spot."

The Blue Course at Congressional Country Club is definitely a brute, stretching 7,574 yards, but length doesn't seem to be a problem for Cantlay.

Last August, he teed off on a course that was even longer than Congressional — Chambers Bay. The University Place, Wash., course was the site of the U.S. Amateur Championship.

It played 7,742 yards, and Cantlay made it to the semifinals of match play.

"Last summer, I began playing with a lot of confidence. I have matured, and I am feeling more comfortable on the course," Cantlay said.

"It feels great to make it to the U.S. Open, and I am out to play that best golf that I can."

Contact the writer: ddottore@ocregister.com


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