Pat O'Brien rushed up to Erin, Wisconsin this weekend to make sure he was in attendance to see his student, Kelly Kraft, win the biggest tournament of his life.
O'Brien watched every hole as Kraft gutted out an impressive victory over Patrick Cantlay, the No. 1 amateur in the world. It was an up-and-down emotional roller coaster for O'Brien as Kraft took a lead, watched Cantlay come back and then battled back himself down the stretch to win it. That's what makes the 36-hole match play final so fun. So why was Kraft, a relative unknown before a hot streak this summer, able to do it?
"He's learned how to slow things down and not get ahead of himself," said O'Brien, who teaches out of Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. "He learned how to win and stay in the present this summer. He figured it out. I'm not surprised to see him win this, honestly, the way he's been playing."
O'Brien is known as a short game guru, working with PGA Tour professionals like 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, 2009 British Open champ Stewart Cink, John Senden, Vaughn Taylor and others. But his work with those guys is mainly putting. With Kraft, it's the whole game.
"That's what I'd like to do more of," O'Brien said. "Kelly has worked hard and really started finishing tournaments off. We saw that at the Texas Amateur and the Trans-Miss this summer. He kept it going here."
O'Brien says Kraft has always been confident, but he was thinking too much sometimes and speeding himself up when in contention. That changed a few months ago.
"He's so calm at times," O'Brien said. "He doesn't get rattled. He has stayed within himself tremendously and has had consistent swing mechanics. He's just letting it go and not really having to think much about it and it's fun to watch."