Cantlay craving his U.S. Junior chance

“I’m just trying to bankroll experience and get ready for college golf,” said Cantlay.

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Patrick Cantlay is a future-minded golfer.

He takes his time as a junior golfer seriously, but is always focusing on the next step in his progression through golf.

“I’m just trying to bankroll experience and get ready for college golf,” said Cantlay.

Cantlay – who’s committed to UCLA – has his sights set on an eventual pro career, but before he gets there, he is focused on what he calls the “biggest junior event in the world.”

He’ll be one of many players vying for a title at the U.S. Junior Amateur July 20-25 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. The 17-year-old, however, doesn’t feel any added pressure despite the fact that this will be his first U.S. Junior.

“Obviously I’d like to win,” said Cantlay, “but if you play the golf course well, the rest will take care of itself.”

Cantlay has risen to 12th in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings and is ranked fifth in the class of 2010. Even with a tie for third at Thunderbird and a tie for 10th at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, the Los Alamitos, Calif., native maintains he’s having a so-so year.

“I hit the ball terrible [at Rolex],” he said. “I was right there all week, but couldn’t get anything going until the last day.”

Cantlay shot a 4-under 68 in the final round but his week was marred by inconsistency and a copious amount of bogeys.

“It’s like there’s always something missing... if one thing is working, there’s something else not working.”

Despite his recent struggles, Cantlay should still be feared at the U.S. Junior. He picked up his first AJGA win last year at the Mission Hills Desert Junior and went on a solid run to close out 2008. In five more AJGA starts, he had three top-10s in AJGA invitationals.

Cantlay is positive entering the U.S. Junior thanks in large part to his work with Jamie Mulligan, director of golf at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Calif.

Regardless of stroke or match-play competition, Cantlay’s mindset remains the same.

“You still have to play the golf course,” Cantlay said. “You have to worry about the other player but if you make birdies, you’re still going to have a good day.”

Cantlay will need that resolve when he competes for head coach Derek Freeman at UCLA. The Bruins – NCAA Champions in 2008 – are a perennial national contender and year-in, year-out expect to be in the NCAA postseason mix.

“Yeah, I’m excited,” said Cantlay. “It’s going to be great.”

The same could be said for his upcoming run at the U.S. Junior.

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