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Cantlay & Kraft to Meet in Championship Match of U.S. Amateur
Cantlay, a UCLA sophomore who holds the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, defeated Jordan Russell, 22, of College Station, Texas, 4 and 3, in the first Saturday morning semifinal.
Kraft, a three-time Conference USA Player of the Year who completed his eligibility at Southern Methodist University this year, beat Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team member Jack Senior, 23, of England, 3 and 2.
Cantlay's experience in professional events in 2011 has boosted his confidence. He finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Open, shot 60 en route to a 26th-place finish at the Travelers Championship and was in the top 25 at the AT&T National and the RBC Canadian Open.
"I think any time you get to play with the best fields possible it just helps your game and your state of mind," Cantlay said. "This summer has prepared me better than I was prepared last summer for this tournament. I didn't feel nearly as nervous as I did in the semifinal this year as I did last year, so I think that has something to do with all the tournaments I've played."
Cantlay, the 2011 NCAA Division I Player and Freshman of the Year, birdied the first hole to take a 1-up lead and never trailed in his match. He and Russell, who defeated defending champion Peter Uihlein in the quarterfinals, then alternated winning holes through the first six and the match remained all square.
The Californian birdied the long par-5 seventh to take a 1-up lead that he never relinquished. Russell, a senior All-American at Texas A&M, bogeyed the eighth for a 2-up Cantlay advantage. Cantlay then won No. 11 after a Russell bogey. His third birdie came at the par-5 14th, which gave him a 4-up lead with four holes to play. For the match, Cantlay was the equivalent of even-par (four birdies, four bogeys) with the usual match-play concessions.
"It's a great feeling," Cantlay said of playing in the final. "I'm really excited to go out tomorrow and do my best. So far, this week I've come and done what I wanted to do. So, it's really exciting."
"He's just clutch," Russell said of Cantlay. "I mean you've seen it, he's been down in a couple of matches and came back. So what do you expect?"
Kraft, who lost the first hole but never trailed again, won the second and third holes to go 1 up. The winner of the 2011 Trans-Mississippi Championship then increased his lead to 3 up through 11 holes with a birdie on the par-4 11th. But his eagle on the par-5 14th restored his lead to 3 up.
He credited his putting for a large portion of his success this week. "It's good," Kraft said of his efficiency on the greens. "When you get on a roll putting kind of like I did today, it just feels like you're going to make every 15-, 20-footer that you look at. So, it's pretty easy then."
"He played great all day," Senior said of Kraft. "I have no complaints. I worked him all day, but he was the deserved winner, that's for sure."
Senior was making his first appearance at the U.S. Amateur and his first trip to the USA. He was vying to become just the second English winner following Harold Hilton, who won the Havemeyer Trophy in 1911.
Both finalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Open Championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.
The above report was written by Christina Lance and is courtesy of the USGA. For more information, visit www.usga.org. For complete scoring, visit http://www.usga.org/ChampEventScore.aspx?id=17179869326&year=2011&type=reversetree.