By KAREN CROUSE
New York Times
SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Collegiate golf is the acoustic version of the pro game: unamplified by applause, announcers, grandstands, clacking electronic scoreboards or chattering caddies. For upward of five hours, the competitors are essentially alone with their thoughts.
CordeValle Golf Club was so quiet during the recent Gifford Collegiate Invitational, you could hear Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1 amateur in the country, calm himself as he walked the fairways. On one hole, Cantlay, 19, softly sang a Simon and Garfunkel hit from more than four decades ago: “Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart, you’re shaking my confidence daily.”
Weeks earlier, Cantlay competed in a PGA Tour event on the same course and was surrounded by the roving mosh pit that is a Tiger Woods gallery. Paired in the first two rounds of the Frys.com Open with Woods, a 14-time major champion and former world No. 1, Cantlay walked fairways that were more like fishbowls. Fans lined five and six deep behind the gallery ropes and made a mad dash after every Woods swing to position themselves for his next shot. Unfazed, Cantlay, a sophomore at U.C.L.A., scored four strokes better than Woods in the first round on his way to a tie for 67th. Cantlay said the difference between his two treks to CordeValle never entered his mind.
“It’s irrelevant,” he said with a shrug, adding, “Golf is golf.”
From his taste in music to his approach to the game, Cantlay is unapologetically old school. After a sizzling summer in which he recorded runner-up finishes at the N.C.A.A. championships and the United States Amateur and four top-25s on the PGA Tour, Cantlay could have turned professional. Instead, he left millions of endorsement dollars on the table to invest more time in his game and his education.
He did so after conferring with his inner circle, a group that includes Derek Freeman, the head of the U.C.L.A. men’s program who left a lucrative career in investment banking to follow his passion for golf into coaching, and his longtime swing coach, Jamie Mulligan, who frames the game in life’s big picture.
“At the end of the day, you’re not doing this for the money,” Mulligan said. “You’re doing it for the love of it, the pleasure of it. Our job is to make him fall deeper in love with this sport.” The challenge, he added, “is everybody else’s expectations.”
In a society fixated on the bottom line, Cantlay seems more interested in methodology. If you ask how a round went, he will talk about how he felt, not what he scored.
“I think that’s how I’m wired,” Cantlay said. “I try and make everything about the process. I think it’s better not to worry about the future. My focus is just on trying to improve every day.”
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