20 August 2019
Through Injury and Tragedy
Once known as the best amateur golfer in the world, a fractured spine and the death of his best friend wreaked havoc on Patrick Cantlay’s professional career. Despite the setbacks, he persevered to become a stronger figure and reach his current position as World No. 9.
Entering the professional arena at the age of 20, Cantlay was predicted to be golf’s next great prospect. The fact that Cantlay was the No. 1 amateur in the world when he decided to turn pro excited golf fans. Sadly, disaster struck and Cantlay’s world was suddenly turned upside down. A fractured spine forced him to hang up his clubs, then a terrible accident took the life of his best friend. Cantlay was left in limbo. It took him three years to revive himself and return to competition. Early in June, the former UCLA student claimed his second PGA Tour victory at the Memorial Tournament following three great results including T9 at the Masters and T3 at the PGA Championship.
Cantlay had some impressive stats as an amateur. What were they?
He was the No. 1-ranked amateur golfer in the world for 54 consecutive weeks in 2011-2012; the longest a player has held that spot. He still holds this record today. Additionally, Cantlay was the low amateur at the 2011 US Open and the 2012 Masters Tournament, and he also claimed the Fred Haskins Award, the Phil Mickelson Award, the Ben Hogan Award, the Mark McCormack Medal, and the Jack Nicklaus Award - all by the end of his sophomore year at UCLA.
When did he turn professional? How did his journey as a professional player start off?
In June 2012, Cantlay decided to turn professional, skipping his final two years of college. His first professional win was the 2013 Colombia Championship, an event on the Web.com Tour. He earned his PGA Tour Card for 2014.
During the 2013–2014 season Cantlay only played in five events and just one tournament the following season. Why was this?
He was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his L5 vertebrae. “When I made a swing on the range at Colonial in May 2013, it felt like a knife had been stuck in my back. … the only cure was a whole lot of rest,” he explained, as quoted by Golf Digest. “It was a shock. I did play a few events to finish high enough in the Web.com playoffs to get my PGA Tour card, but I knew I wasn't healthy.”
In 2016 Cantlay faced another setback. What happened?
His best friend and caddy, Chris Roth, died in a hit and run accident. It had been Chris, with his positive perspective, that had been encouraging Cantlay to get up off the couch after he was forced to take a break from golf on advice from doctors to physically rest and recover.
How did Cantlay finally get himself back on track after these traumatic events?
He had a great support system from his family and a group of friends at Virginia Country Club. They helped him to stay focused on getting back on tour and playing the way he dreamed about as a kid.
How did he perform when he returned to the Tour?
He took part in his first tournament at Pebble Beach in 2017 season without pain. In his second start, Cantlay regained his PGA Tour card with a runner-up finish at Valspar a few weeks later. ”Once I got a taste of competing, I really started to believe again that every time I teed it up, I was playing to win,” he said. Then, a month and a half after the Tour Championship, he won his first PGA Tour event at the Shriners.
How has the adversity Cantlay experienced changed him?
It has shaped his character, making him a stronger person and a better player with a new perspective. Cantlay used to believe golf was the most important thing in his life and that the worst thing that could happen was playing bad golf. “Now, knowing there are realities much worse than playing bad golf - I think that helps,” explained Cantlay.
Cantlay enjoys reading about other successful people. What lessons has he taken from them?
Cantlay loves reading biographies of people that he thinks have either done excellent work or achieved a lot. “I think a lot of really successful people go at their work 100 percent, then have hobbies or something to really shut [the work] off. That allows them to be even more engaged when they’re doing their work,” Cantlay explained, as quoted by Golf.com.
What has the struggle of the last five years taught Cantlay?
To him, it’s been about accepting what happened and dealing with it as best he can. “You want to realize the great impact it has had on you, but at the same time, even if it's massive, you don't want to have it consume you so you become jaded or apathetic or negative, and you don't like the person you become.”