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The Loop

Amateur says top amateurs could beat top pros

July 24, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The year of the amateur golfer continued Sunday. One problem: they know it.

And if you think the professionals aren't happy getting beat, you might not have seen anything yet.

Harris English rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Ohio State University's Scarlet Course to vault over fellow amateur John Peterson and become the third amateur -- and second this year -- to win on the Nationwide Tour, capturing the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. English became the second University of Georgia product to win on the developmental circuit in 2011, joining former roommate Russell Henley, who claimed the the Stadion Classic at UGA. Daniel Summerhays was an amateur when he won the inaugural Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational in 2007.

Meanwhile, Patrick Cantlay, the Jack Nicklaus Award winner as the top collegiate player, continued to shine on the PGA Tour, finishing T-9 Sunday at the RBC Canadian Open, his fourth top-25 in as many tour appearances. Earlier this year Cantlay shot 60 at the Travelers Championship after finishing low amateur at the U.S. Open at Congressional CC. Then there was the performance of 20-year-old Tom Lewis in the Open Championship at Royal St. George's, where the Englishman seized a share of the first-round lead with a 65.

English and Peterson, both 22 and former first-team All-Americans, held the top two places on the leaderboard at OSU Scarlet after the second and third rounds, which had never happened before on the Nationwide Tour. Peterson, the 2011 NCAA Division I champion, was the leader both days, and he set the 54-hole tournament record of 199 before a closing 1-over 72 that included a bogey at the last to fall into a tie for second with hometown favorite Kyle Reifers. English won with a 14-under 270 total after a 70.

Peterson, perhaps out of disappointment at not winning, might have made too much out of his consolation prize.

"I knew I could beat all those guys. My goal was to win, but I didn't get it done," the LSU product said. "I didn't win the tournament, but I beat all the pros."

He probably should have stopped there. He didn't. Bulletin boards should be put away at the next few tour stops.

"The top guys in college, the top 20 or 30 guys, can beat the top 20, 30 guys on the PGA Tour," Peterson added unequivocally. "Maybe with the exception of two or three guys who are constantly up there, like a Matt Kuchar or Luke Donald, those guys that are always there ... those top 20 college guys will beat those top 20 or 30 PGA Tour guys, if given the opportunity. They just don't have the opportunity. That's why this tournament is so great."

"I definitely agree with that," English said. "You look at what happened here, you look at what guys are doing this week in Canada ... at the U.S. Open there are always a couple of amateurs playing well. On any given week when you give amateurs a shot, they're going to do it (play well) because we're ruthless. All college events are very competitive, and you learn how to go out there and win. The college golf system is awesome. You see guys coming out every year ready to compete and showing it off."

English and Peterson plan to turn professional this fall, after the Walker Cup, unless they should earn a Masters invitation via reaching the final of the upcoming U.S. Amateur. They had better be ready to compete.

-- Dave Shedloski