ERIN, Wis. – Max Buckley is entering his senior year at SMU, but he’s already decided he’s not going to play professional golf. He spent his summer interning at Oppenheimer Funds, not traveling the country to play in amateur events.
It’s a schedule that’s in stark contrast to those of Peter Uihlein and Patrick Cantlay, but it seems to have worked for the 21-year-old from Rye, N.Y. He’s advanced to the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals, and will face Cantlay on Friday afternoon.
“I know I’m not going to a be golf pro, I know I’m going to be a lifelong amateur,” said Buckley, an economics major. “This has just been awesome. It’s pretty surreal. But I know on any given day I can match up to these guys.”
Buckley left his house at 5:45 each morning to take the 6 a.m. train from his home in Rye, N.Y. to Wall Street. He’d try to squeeze in some practice in the evenings, estimating he’d practice 2-3 hours during the week, then play golf during the weekends. That truncated schedule may have helped Buckley.
“My practice was more productive,” he said. “I took everything off my mind. I just kind of go out there and hit it.”
“It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m more relaxed. I don’t get uptight or tense.”
Buckley holed a 20-foot birdie putt on Erin Hills’ first green to beat NCAA champion John Peterson in 19 holes. Buckley beat U.S. Walker Cup team member Chris Williams in the second round.
Buckley won this summer’s Hochster Invitational, a prestigious New York event held at Quaker Ridge, which hosted the 1997 Walker Cup. He also was medalist in his U.S. Amateur qualifier.
Buckley is one of four Americans remaining that could work his way onto the Walker Cup team with a U.S. Amateur victory: the winner of the Blake Biddle-Kelly Kraft match, Jordan Russell and Spieth are the others (though Spieth will likely be picked even if he doesn’t win).
Buckley birdied the first three holes to go 3 up against Peterson. Buckley went 2 up with a par at the par-5 14th, but Peterson won the par-3 16th with birdie after hitting his approach within a foot, then holed a 10-foot par putt to win the 17th.
Buckley laid up from the rough on the par-5 18th, while Peterson hit a fairway wood 15 yards short of the green. The match went to extra holes when Peterson missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th. Peterson, who played this week with one eye on the Walker Cup team, missed an 8-foot birdie that would’ve extended the match to 20 holes.