U.S. Am champ Kraft to turn pro after Masters

Kelly Kraft, of Denton, Texas, poses with his championship trophy after the final round at the U.S. Amateur golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Kraft defeated Patrick Cantlay, of Los Alamitos, Calif., 2-up to win the tournament.

Kelly Kraft, of Denton, Texas, poses with his championship trophy after the final round at the U.S. Amateur golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Kraft defeated Patrick Cantlay, of Los Alamitos, Calif., 2-up to win the tournament.

A tough choice awaits players who win the U.S. Amateur after their final season of college golf: turn pro or remain amateur for the three majors for which the Amateur champion is eligible.

Kelly Kraft, who beat Patrick Cantlay in the final of this year’s U.S. Amateur, has made up his mind. He told Golfweek on Thursday that he has decided to turn pro after the Masters, forgoing exemptions to the U.S. and British opens.

“I’m going to turn pro basically Sunday night after the Masters,” Kraft said. “I’m not going to play in the Open or the Open Championship because I can try to qualify for those.”

Winning the U.S. Amateur earned Kraft a trip to Scotland for the Walker Cup and that upcoming tee time at Augusta National. He can add Australia to his upcoming itinerary.

The Texan will play three consecutive PGA Tour of Australasia events – the Australian Open, New South Wales Open and Australian PGA – starting Nov. 10. Kraft will leave for Australia the day after representing the United States at The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship on Nov. 2-5. Nathan Smith, the three-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, will be Kraft’s teammate at The Spirit, which is held at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity, Texas.

Kraft said he also intends to play the South Beach International Amateur on Dec. 20-23 in Miami Beach, Fla. The South Beach is a first-year event being held concurrently and near the long-running Dixie Amateur.

Colt Knost, who like Kraft played college golf at SMU, is the last amateur to turn pro and forgo the Masters invitation. Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion, has played on the PGA and Nationwide tours since turning pro, but has yet to earn another Masters invitation.

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