Correction: The original version of the headline contained an error. Patrick Cantlay is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation.
If you watched Patrick Cantlay’s reactions on the golf course, you wouldn’t be able to tell if the shot he just hit was good or bad.
Odds are that the freshman on the UCLA men’s golf team did hit a good one, though. It’s what he’s known for. Being a freshman and being the No. 1-ranked golfer in the nation for a significant portion of the season will do that to you.
In just a few months of collegiate competition, Cantlay has proven himself to be one of the top amateurs in the country. He’s won three collegiate tournaments as an individual, picked up both the Pac-10 Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards Monday and is one of three finalists for the Hogan Award, golf’s version of the Heisman Trophy.
But when discussing these accomplishments, Cantlay’s demeanor is unchanged from that on the golf course. He’s still as calm and poised as ever.
Asked earlier in the year about being named Pac-10 golfer of the month for February, Cantlay said, “It’s just a byproduct of playing well, and my goal is just to play well. I keep it pretty simple.”
Simple indeed. Never seeming overtly excited or dull, some might consider Cantlay to be somewhat of a minimalist, especially if one considers the minimal amount of shots necessary for him to place a small white ball into a small white hole.
Cantlay, currently ranked No. 4, has a scoring average of 70.7, on pace to break the UCLA single-season scoring record junior Gregor Main set last year at 71.027.
“He’s one of the calmest guys I’ve seen play,” sophomore Pedro Figueiredo said. “He doesn’t really react when he hits a really good shot. He just puts his club in the bag again and walks to the green and makes the putt.”
One factor to which Cantlay may attribute his focus on the golf course is surely his swing coach, Jamie Mulligan.
While working with Mulligan at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, Cantlay has been able to practice alongside numerous professional golfers, including one he looks up to, John Cook. The professional attitudes of Cook and the rest of Mulligan’s disciples have rubbed off on the younger Cantlay.
“He’s got a very good understanding of how to play the game, not just physically but mentally as well,” UCLA assistant coach Jason Sigler said. “And (he also has a good understanding of) the course management side. That’s something that, because of his relationship with Jamie, he’s a little bit ahead of most college players right now.”
When asked about Cantlay, Sigler was quick to point out the strengths of Cantlay’s game ““ accuracy, putting, competitiveness ““ but he also talked about what Cantlay brings to the team besides low scores.
“Off the golf course Pat’s my guy for directions and music,” Sigler said. “He takes care of us with getting us to the right place and making sure we’ve got good meals. … He’s a fun guy to be around.”
In addition to music and meals, Cantlay is a true team player both on and off the links.
For example, take the time when Cantlay invited Portuguese teammate Figueiredo and Figueiredo’s mother to his home in Los Alamitos for Thanksgiving dinner.
“It was great experiencing the American tradition and being so welcomed by his family,” Figueiredo said. “That was a special moment for me and my mom, being welcomed by a teammate and experiencing Thanksgiving.”
Coach Derek Freeman said that Cantlay, who is one of only four freshmen on the team, enjoys hanging around with his teammates, relaxing and joking around with everyone, a sentiment that Figueiredo also shared.
As his freshman season comes to a close, some may say that Cantlay took the golf world by storm. Few thought he would dominate the sport as quickly as he has, even after Cantlay won the California State Championship his senior year of high school while playing for Servite in Anaheim.
But don’t include Cantlay in that list. When asked about his performance, he said that he pretty much played to his expectations, if just a little better.
As the season comes to a close, his team will need him at his best now more so than ever. Freeman said that Cantlay must play to his capability for the team to prosper.
“He’s proven that he’s a very good player, a very successful player,” Freeman said. “For our team to have the most chance of best success we need him to play well, but we also have four other guys on our team.”
With just the NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championships left on the schedule for the No. 4 Bruins, Cantlay will be facing his most difficult competition of the year. Again, don’t expect him to get worked up about it.
“As long as your mind is right, you’re still just playing the golf course every time you go out,” Cantlay said.
Whether driving off the first tee in a practice round or putting for a championship, one wouldn’t expect Cantlay to say anything else.
It’s just him and the course, after all. It’s that simple.