Kraft Feels 'Awesome' After Big Victory


Kelly Kraft not only overcame a difficult golf course but also the top-ranked amateur in the world Sunday. The 22-year-old from Denton, Texas, forged a 2-up victory over Patrick Cantlay at the 7,760-yard, par-72 Erin Hills in Wisconsin to win the 111th U.S. Amateur.

In securing the win Sunday, the Southern Methodist University student receives an automatic spot in next year's U.S. Open, Masters and British Open - unless he turns pro, which he was unsure of after receiving the Havemayer Trophy.

Kraft has used up his eligibility to play golf at SMU, but still plans to get his Sociology degree. Kraft was still entertaining thoughts of entering PGA Tour Q-School this year until taking the Amateur title.

When asked about his playing in three of next year's majors, Kraft said: "You know, that's awesome. I mean I'm going to have to see how long I can stay amateur for because I don't get those if I turn pro, I guess. But I mean that's just great. I tried not to think about it too much (Saturday). You know, I just tried to finish today. And now I can think about it all for a while."

Here's what else Kraft, who was also named to the 2011 USA Walker Cup team by Captain Jim Holtgrieve shortly after Cantlay conceded the match on the 36th hole, told reporters after securing the biggest victory of his life.

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion, Kelly Kraft, from Denton, Texas, a two up winner over Patrick Cantlay. And Kelly, just a quick emotional reaction to Kelly Kraft, U.S. Amateur champion. What does that mean to you? How does it stir your emotions?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. It's awesome. I should -- I don't know. It's just great. It's such an honor to win this championship. I mean there's none other better than this one. I had a blast all week, and it was just an awesome time.

MODERATOR: Did you look at some of the names on the trophy?

KELLY KRAFT: Not yet. But I know what's on there.

MODERATOR: And you've got some friends in the back.

KELLY KRAFT: I do.

MODERATOR: Your teammates from SMU were nice enough to travel and quite vocal in their support out on the golf course, so I'm sure that probably meant something to you pretty big probably.

KELLY KRAFT: Oh, yeah. Those guys were awesome today. Thanks for getting loud out there.

MODERATOR: All right. Well, we'll go with some questions.

Q. Not only you had a bunch of friends in the gallery, your caddy, grade school buddy. Why don't you talk about that dynamic with you and your caddy and just having all of these guys around and how did they help you out there?

KELLY KRAFT: I was just relaxed out there. My caddy, Boston, he's caddied for me a bunch of times. You know, I hang out with him whenever I go home. We've been friends for a long time. He caddied for me earlier this summer at the Texas Am. So he just kind of knows my game and just makes me comfortable, and whenever I start getting down on myself, he kicks me in the butt and tells me to get going, so it's good.

Q. Kelly, you mentioned in your press conferences after your victories prior to the final match that your putter was something that really moved you along. How would you assess your putting today in the championship match?

KELLY KRAFT: The putting today wasn't as good as it was in the previous rounds, but you know, I didn't really -- I didn't really -- I didn't make any real long putts like I have in the previous matches, but I didn't really putt bad. So it was kind of in between. I made putts when I needed to. You know, lag putts when I needed to, and I mean all in all it was another good putting day.

Q. Kelly, talk about what went through your mind on 17 this morning. You had built a nice four up lead. It looked like you were short a putt from going 5-up. All of a sudden he drains that one from off the green, and his big comeback is on.

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. Actually my caddy said he was going to make that before he did. So I mean it's hard to get up that much on the No. 1 amateur in the world. So you know, I just -- I was happy being 2-up. Even losing the last two holes the morning round, I was still happy being 2-up. If you would have told me that before we started, I would have taken it. So I mean it was -- you know, you play to win on the second 18.

Q. Can you just walk us through 15 today in the afternoon, and it's a 250-yard par-4. Talk about how you played that hole, and then also talk about the putt you made on 13.

KELLY KRAFT: The putt I made on 13, the birdie putt, I just had -- you know, I really felt good over that putt. It was one of those that I have made a lot of those kind of putts in earlier rounds, so I knew I could make that one. And I didn't want him to have a chance to tie that hole because I needed to get the match back to square before we came down to the last few holes. That was a nice one to go in. And as for, what did you say, 15, the par-4? Oh, we thought the wind was coming in a little bit, and the wind kind of died down. The morning round it was more down windy could hit hybrid, but I hit that 3-wood. I thought it was good. I hit it right up the middle of the green. Just it was too much club. From there I knew -- he hit it over the green from that bunker. I figured if I just make par, then I'd probably give myself a good chance to win this hole.

Q. After Patrick three-putted on 16 and you take the 1-up lead, what did you say to yourself about how you're going to play the last two holes?

KELLY KRAFT: I was just trying to play one more. Told my caddy let's win it right here on that tee box. I hit two good shots. Just -- you know, that green was fast. It's tough green to read. But I didn't want to have to go to 18, to tell you the truth, but you know, I did and it's all right.

Q. What did you tell yourself, was there a swing thought right before that bunker shot on 18?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. I just -- I mean on my bunker shots I just try to hit down behind the ball. I mean it's pretty easy. You know, you just gotta kind of flop it out of there and let it roll to the hole. It wasn't that hard of a shot. It was just given the circumstances it was a little harder, but I hit it well, so yeah.

Q. And what will go into your decision in terms of keeping your amateur status? Is it an easy decision now?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah, right now it is. I'm going to stay amateur right now, yeah.

Q. Kelly, were you aware of how good Cantlay had been on 17 and 18 all week and was that on your mind at all or do you just kind of forget about that?

KELLY KRAFT: I didn't really think about that, but now that you mention it, yeah, he was pretty good on those holes. He was good on them this morning. He won both of them against me. So no, that wasn't even in my head, though.

Q. Just talk about just playing all week and how difficult is it compared to just a normal four-day tournament?

KELLY KRAFT: It's long. It's fun. You just -- you just gotta get your rest. I mean that's what I did. I didn't really do much after rounds, just kind of went back, ate and went to sleep. Didn't -- you know, I just got my rest and went out and just tried to win my match every day. Pretty simple.

Q. Kelly, can you talk a little bit about your decision to go to SMU? I think it's about an hour from Denton?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. I went and visited that school whenever I was -- actually I think I was a senior in high school, and I wasn't that great of a junior player. Played good in like one AGGA coming into school, like the previous summer before school. And one of my old assistant coaches saw me play in a tournament, and then you know, asked me to come for a visit. And I love the campus, and it was kind of a no-brainer. It was only 45 minutes from home, and it worked out well. I got to meet all these guys over here.

Q. Any relationship with Cole and did you get to see the Havemeyer trophy and was that something that inspired you or anything like that that you can talk about?

KELLY KRAFT: He called me last night and told me -- you know, he told me not to watch the golf yesterday on TV. I watched a little bit of the golf. I'm not going to lie. But no, he just kind of put good thoughts in my head, and I definitely wanted to win another one. You know, I saw him win and I thought that was the coolest thing, and now I've done it too.

Q. Kelly, you mentioned that Patrick's No. 1-ranked amateur in the world. Did you -- were you surprised by the number of mistakes that he said he made?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. You know, I mean he made some mistakes out there, but you know, when you're playing something like this this big, you might be nervous sometimes. You're probably not going to play the same game that you're going to in some other tournament. There's a little more pressure out there, especially on this last day. So I mean you're going to make mistakes. You just gotta be able to recover.

Q. You obviously set out to win this tournament, but you also don't want to lose it. Did you have to hold back trying to be too aggressive or make sure that you don't lose it or is that something that never even crossed your mind?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah, that snuck into my mind wanting to win. I got ahead of myself a couple times. I just had to stop thinking about it and start thinking about something else to get my mind off it. You just gotta play one day at a time because this tournament's so long if you get ahead of yourself, there's no way that you can do it. So I just kind of thought about other things and focused on what was coming up next rather than think about what was going to happen after.

Q. You know, you said you wanted to stay amateur this summer for the Walker Cup and you had a good college career, but you had a lot of work to do this summer to make that team. Did you have any kind of premonition for the summer? You must have been very confident heading into the summer. Talk about it was kind of a risk, but you obviously felt pretty good about your game to do it.

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. Summer amateur golf is just a lot of fun, too. And so I wanted to play another summer of amateur golf, see all my friends and do that whole thing, and you know, I figured I'd load it up on tournaments, and I played a lot of tournaments this summer and figured if I could play well enough to get some attention, you know, I may be able to get a spot for the Walker Cup.

Q. So just to be clear, are you still deciding in terms of 2012 what your status is going to be?

KELLY KRAFT: I haven't thought about that yet. I mean I definitely want to play in the Masters. So I don't know. That's something I'm going to have to think about. I'll start thinking about that after the Walker Cup.

Q. And is it at all strange to win a huge event like this just on a concession where you still have a putt out there? Is that a strange way at all to win?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. I kind of thought that he was going to concede the hole after -- I kind of figured if he missed that, then he would concede the hole, but you know, it was -- I'll take whatever way it comes.

Q. Kelly, you know, you played summer, looking toward the Walker Cup. Now you're on the Walker Cup team. What does that mean to you?

KELLY KRAFT: Dream come true. You know, winning this is unbelievable. Making the Walker Cup team is just amazing, but I couldn't have done it without winning here, I don't think. And I'm just really excited to go over to Scotland and beat those guys up.

Q. So they told you on the green that you were on the Walker Cup?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah.

Q. What was that like?

KELLY KRAFT: He walked up to me on the green and told me, "see ya in Scotland." And I was like, wow. I didn't know what to say. I was kind of -- I just won the tournament and then they told me this. I about had a heart attack.

Q. Who told you?

KELLY KRAFT: The coach told me that.

Q. What was your reaction when Patrick pulled iron on the 15th tee?

KELLY KRAFT: I thought it was a mistake. I mean that hole plays as a par-3 today. That's just not -- that's just not something I would have done. He plays different than me, though. And you know, he just -- he hit 8-iron off that tee right into that bunker, and that's just something you can't do there. But I would have gone for it either way.

Q. Kelly, along with the trophy you get U.S. Open exemption, a Masters exemption and a British Open exemption. What's your reaction to that?

KELLY KRAFT: That's great. I mean I had the Masters, I guess, and the U.S. Open after yesterday. Now the British Open. You know, that's awesome. I mean I'm going to have to see how long I can stay amateur for because I don't get those if I turn pro, I guess. But I mean that's just great. I tried not to think about it too much yesterday. You know, I just tried to finish today. And now I can think about it all for a while.

Q. Correct me if I'm wrong, but when I read your bio you still had one more year of school left?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah, that's right.

Q. So are you going to complete that and finish your degree, and what degree are you going to get?

KELLY KRAFT: Sociology.

Q. Are you going to finish?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah, I'm going to finish. I mean if I'm going to stay amateur, I might as well finish, right? That's the way I see it. My mom would like that.

Q. School started Monday, right?

KELLY KRAFT: Yeah. School started Monday.

Q. Any interesting classes? Do you know what your classes are?

KELLY KRAFT: I have no idea what my classes are. I sent all my teachers emails. I hope they're not going to see this, but I haven't really looked at any of the syllabuses or anything. They're not going to be happy with me missing more school for the Walker Cup either. It's okay, though.

Q. I was going to ask why are all your teammates laughing at you right now when you talk about your academics?

KELLY KRAFT: Because they think I'm a joke. No. I don't know. They just like giving me a hard time.

Q. How are you going to celebrate with all your teammates and girl friend and parents and stuff here? What's in store for tonight?

KELLY KRAFT: Probably a lot of soda water and -- no, I don't know. We'll probably go out to dinner, and you know, probably stay up pretty late. You can figure out the rest.

MODERATOR: Any other questions for Kelly? Kelly, well played. Congratulations. U.S. Amateur champion.

KELLY KRAFT: Thank you.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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