Tracy defeats Cantlay at Western Amateur

Ethan Tracy went into the Western Amateur final against Patrick Cantlay the underdog and came out the victor.

Cantlay was the top-ranked amateur golfer in the world entering the championship match Saturday at North Shore Country Club in Glenview north of Chicago.

The UCLA based Cantlay packs an impressive resume and coming off a victory the previous day against world number two, Peter Uihlein, much of the talk was that Cantlay would walk in the 18-hole final match.

He was the low amateur at the US Open in June and had finished among the top 25 in four PGA Tour events this season where Cantlay is yet to miss a cut in any PGA Tour event he has entered.

Tracy’s best efforts this summer was an eighth-place finish in the Ohio Amateur. The Columbus state native had not won a main amateur event either with making the final at the Western Amateur his biggest career achievement to date.

Irrespective of Cantlay’s record and status on the world amateur stage Tracy, a senior at Arkansas, took the lead on the 13th hole and protected it the rest of the way for a 1-up victory.

There were a few hiccups along the way, yet Stacy was able to manage his game and his nerve.

Even a wayward tee shot in the 18th which landed in deep rough with his ball hindered by a tree to the green would not damage his chances of claiming his first main amateur title.

“I hit one of my worst drives of the day on the final hole into the left rough, pitched out and was fortunate enough to get the putt,” said an elated Tracy holding the Western Amateur trophy.

“I played the smart shot out to the fairway. I was just fortunate enough to read it right and put a good stroke on it. Sure I was a little nervous, so I was glad to see it go in.”

The final has been in the balance for the majority of the round with neither player getting more than a hole on their opponent. Both played the last eight holes in 3 under par.

Cantlay had advanced from a two-man playoff to secure the 16th and final spot in the match-play field on Friday and throughout the final appeared to struggle with his putter and the speed of the greens.

His encounter against Uihlein on Friday was considered by many as an equivalent of a US Amateur final. With the momentum of that win he certainly entered the final as favourite yet he just did not seem to be on song against Tracy.

“I just didn’t play all that great this afternoon,” said Cantlay, a semifinalist at last year’s US Amateur and one of four players named this past week to be included in the US Walker Cup team.

“I never really had a stretch where I felt comfortable, especially with the putter. I was fortunate enough to squeak into match play, and I’ve won two matches. Today was disappointing, but I gave it my best out there.”

Nothing should be taken away from what Tracy achieved this week in Chicago. None of the attention was on him during the early stages of the tournament, but soon switched when some of the big names were falling victim to his game.

Along the way Tracy accounted for some of the best amateur golfers in the world including the world number 3 ranked player Jordan Spieth, the number 23rd ranked player Cheng-Tsung Pan and number 25, Derek Ernst.

“To win an event like the Western Amateur is just so special,” remarked Tracy during the media interview.

“I’m lost for words really and it has not sunk in yet. I came here feeling that something was beginning to happen and out there it kind of all came into place. This is simply the biggest win that I could have hoped for.”