Former SMU golfer in U.S. Am Finals

August, 27, 2011
8/27/11
3:22
PM CT
Denton's Kelly Kraft planned on turning professional after the U.S. Amateur Championship or maybe the Walker Cup later this year, if he's selected.

Why? Because the former SMU golfer's 3 & 2 win over Englishman Jack Senior in Saturday's semifinals means he has an invitation to the Masters and U.S. Open in 2012, provided he's still an amateur.

"Now I have to think about it," Kraft said. "That's pretty special to get a chance to play in the Masters. I didn't think I'd be playing in it this early. I went to the practice rounds in high school with my dad and thought it was awesome and wanted to play there. That's pretty special."

First, Kraft wants to see if he can notch the biggest win of his young golfing career with a win over well-known amateur Patrick Cantalay in the 36-hole final on Sunday. Kraft certainly wasn't the most well-known local name to take part in the U.S. Amateur. That title belonged to 18-year-old Jordan Spieth, who lost to Senior in the quarterfinals on Friday. Spieth's loss prevented an all-Dallas area semifinal. But Kraft is keeping hope alive for a local to win the championship. He's trying to become the second SMU golfer to do so in the last four years as Colt Knost won it in 2007.

Kraft didn't come into the championship with much fanfare, but he did come in red-hot. He won the Texas Amateur Championship earlier this summer and then the Trans-Miss Amateur Championship a few weeks later. He's carried over the momentum into this championship, making critical putts and winning some close matches, too. He needed 23 holes to get himself into the quarterfinals and used it as a springboard to win two more matches to get into the finals.

"I putted really well today," Kraft said. "I didn't really give him anytihng. I made the par putts I needed to make. He had to make birdies to beat me."

Kraft's more important putt was a 10-foot par save on the par-3 13th hole. Senior had made a nice chip and Kraft had conceded the putt. So with a 2-up lead, he needed to roll his putt in to make sure Senior didn't inch closer. Kraft pumped his fist as the ball went into the hole.

"That was big for me," Kraft said.

He went to the par-5 14th and made eagle to take a 3-up lead and eventually closed the match out on 16.

Kraft will now play Cantalay, who is on the USA Walker Cup Team as a sophomore at UCLA. He was the 2011 Jack Nicklaus Award winner (top collegiate golfer) and carded a 60 at the PGA Tour's Travelers Championship earlier this season. Cantalay is ranked as the top amateur in the world right now.

"I'm really excited to face him," Kraft said. "I'm playing well right now and I'm looking forward to having a good match. He won't be easy to beat, but I've been making putts and making birdies all week."

Kraft said one key will be to keep himself hydrated through 36 holes, something he's been conscious of while playing all week in Wisconsin.

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