Kraft will take his place alongside them.
But Kraft was the obvious underdog when
the 36-hole championship match commenced. Cantlay was merely the No. 1-
ranked amateur player in the world, who
had shot a round of 60 in a PGA Tour
event earlier this season.
Kraft’s biggest lead was 4-up; Cantlay’s
was just 1-up. But the seesaw match was
squared six times after Cantlay took the
lead with a birdie on the first hole.
The match turned for the last time on the
34th hole when Cantlay ran his downhill
birdie putt from the collar on No. 16 about
7 feet past the hole and was unable to
make the comebacker for par. Kraft
two-putted from above the hole to take
the lead with two holes to play.
Cantlay conceded the 36th hole and the
match when he missed a par putt on the
18th green. Then it was party time for
Kraft and his entourage of family, friends
and his vocal Southern Methodist University teammates who made the trip north
from Texas for the championship match.
“We'll probably go out to dinner, and
you know, probably stay up pretty late,”
Kraft said of the impending celebration.
“You can figure out the rest.”
The United States Golf Association and
the folks at Erin Hills also have many rea-
sons to be pleased. Wisconsin’s first U.S.
Amateur went off without a hitch, save a
series of storms which complicated the
second round of stroke play at Erin Hills
and Blue Mound, the Wauwatosa club that
Finalist Patrick Cantlay plays out of one of the numerous bunkers at Erin Hills.
served as the second qualifying site.
That precipitation was a distant memory
by Sunday, when the Erin Hills terrain had
turned from green to a mottled brown and
the course exhibited the dry, hard and fast
characteristics tournament officials love.
It was said Erin Hills’ greens were running about 131⁄
2 on the Stimpmeter Sunday
morning. No one knows how fast they
were by the end of the match – 14, 15? –
except perhaps Cantlay, who couldn’t handle the speed on that decisive downhiller
from the collar on the
Erin Hills’ next USGA
championship will be the
2017 U.S. Open, and this Amateur was a fantastic trial run.
With no admission fee, there
was a definite gallery pres-
ence at the championship – at least a
couple thousand followed the final match
– which is usually lightly attended.
Likewise, it’s obvious that Erin Hills will
be up to the task of hosting a U.S. Open.
This course gave the best amateurs in the
world fits, and for all the talk of fast fescue
and lightning greens, Erin Hills remains a
ball striker’s layout. It measured over 7,700
yards for the championship and its abundant, penal bunkers were true hazards for
those unfortunate enough to find them.
And they found them often, all week
Blayne Barber and his caddie stride through the
golden fescue. Left, former MIlwaukee Brewers
pitcher Mike Ignasiak lost out in a playoff for the
final spots in the match play bracket.