- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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UCLA golfer Patrick Cantlay, the world's top-ranked amateur, announced Tuesday he is turning professional and will play for prize money in this week's Travelers Championship, which begins Thursday in Cromwell, Conn.
Cantlay signed with agent Mark Steinberg of Excel Sports Management, the same agent who represents Tiger Woods. He will play his first professional tournament on the same course where he shot 60 in the second round of the Travelers Championship last year, setting the mark for lowest round shot by an amateur in a PGA Tour event.
"I feel like it's time for me to play as a pro," Cantlay said during a news conference at the Traveler's Championship. "I think it's best for my golf game, and that's just what my -- when I talked it over with my mom and my dad and (swing coach) Jamie Mulligan, that's just what we thought would be best for me and my game right now."
Cantlay, 20, a two-time All-American at UCLA, finished tied for 41st at the U.S. Open last week as an amateur. Earlier this year, he won the Silver Cup as low amateur at the Masters after a tie for 47th there and was the low amateur with a tie for 21st in the 2011 U.S. Open. He was runner-up in the U.S. Amateur last summer.
He played five PGA Tour events in 2011 and finished in the top 25 in four, including a tie for ninth at the RBC Canadian Open in July. He has sponsor's exemptions for this week, and the next two weeks, but will have to acquire more or qualify to play in further PGA Tour events.
Cantlay is giving up his exemption into the British Open. Because he has exemptions into the next three PGA Tour events, the timing of turning pro made sense for Cantlay. He needs to earn enough money to finish in the top 125 on the PGA Tour money list in order to avoid qualifying school and earn his PGA Tour playing card.
"For me, it was a combination of being comfortable with being a professional and taking it to the next level and timing," Cantlay said. "I think this timing makes sense for me, being able to start somewhere where I'm comfortable and I have good memories. And I feel ready and comfortable with being a pro and trying to be as good as I can be."
Last month, Cantlay became the first UCLA golfer to win the coveted Hogan Award, given to the nation's top collegiate golfer. In 2011, he won the Jack Nicklaus Award, the Phil Mickelson Award and was named college player of the year by GolfWeek magazine.
Cantlay has the UCLA school record for career scoring average (70.7) and his 70.4 average in 2011 is a single-season record.
"His game has continued to improve during his time at UCLA and is now at an impressively professional level," UCLA coach Derek Freeman said. "We are excited for Patrick and are looking forward to having another Bruin on the PGA Tour."
UCLA golfer Patrick Cantlay, the world's top-ranked amateur, announced Tuesday that he is turning professional and will play for prize money in this week's Travelers Championship beginning Thursday in Cromwell, Conn.