Teeing Off with U.S. Amateur Champion Kelly Kraft

Teeing Off with U.S. Amateur Champion Kelly Kraft

Last year I worked on an Internet marketing campaign for the 2011 The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship. The event takes place every two years at Whispering Pines Golf Club, and features 80 players from 20 countries. It was the first time I had heard of the event, but after spending several months obsessed with the field and the competition in Trinity, Texas. Team USA ended up winning the event. This is a collection of the best amateur players in the world, and Kelly Kraft played for team USA. Kelly won the U.S. Amateur and will be turning pro after the Masters this April. He played well in Trinity, and I had the chance to chat with him several times while in Texas. We have stayed in touch on Facebook and Twitter, and I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with Kelly. As he prepares for Augusta and turning pro, I wish him the best of luck in career on the PGA TOUR.

Kelly, I met you at the 2011 The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship. Team USA ended up taking home a ton of gold medals. Tell me more about your experience at The Spirit. How fun is that golf course?

The Spirit was a great time. I really enjoyed the golf course, especially with the fast greens. I am good friends with Nathan Smith and I really enjoyed competing on team USA with him. Glad we could get the win.

You are a senior at Southern Methodist University. I am sure I already know the answer to this question… but what’s next?

I am actually done at SMU as of right now. Next up for me is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Georgia Cup and then the Masters. After that I will turn professional.

Where are you originally from?

Denton, Texas.

You played high school and college golf. How were they different? Did you find more competition in high school or college?

The competition is just a lot stronger in college. In high school there were only a few kids at every tournament that were really good. In college they were all pretty good. It made me want to get better so I could compete week in and week out.

There are a lot of golf courses out there… but what is your favorite? Is it even possible to pick a favorite golf course?

Augusta National is my favorite course. It has everything… the course is absolutely perfect in every category. Not to mention the history behind that place.

You are the 2011 U.S. Amateur champion. You beat Patrick Cantlay 2 up. That has to be a thrill… tell me more about that tournament. What’s it feel like being the U.S. Amateur champion?

It is a very cool feeling. It’s the title that every amateur wants to have! I feel like I have accomplished a lot in my amateur career with that win. It is very nice to have the trophy hanging out in my house with me.

That means you get to play in the Masters this April. You also get to play in the U.S. Open and the British Open in 2012.

I will just be playing the Masters. I will have to qualify for the others because I am turning pro before them, forgoing the amateur exemptions.

Do you watch a lot of golf on TV?

Yes, I like to come home and watch golf in the evenings after practice. I think you can learn a lot by watching the best players in the world.

Erin Hills Golf Course is NOT an easy golf course. Had you played there before the U.S. Amateur?

It’s a tough course because of the length and because it plays very firm. When the wind gets blowing, its tough to stop your golf ball. I had never played there before.

Starting with your driver, and working your way through the golf ball… what’s in your bag?

As an amateur I played Titleist clubs, but now I am playing Callaway.

  • Driver: Razr Fit
  • 3 Wood: Razr
  • Irons: 2-pw Razr muscleback
  • Wedges: 52 degree and 58 degree
  • Ball: HEX black tour

Do you get nervous on the first tee?

No, not usually. I did get a little nervous on the first tee of the final of the U.S. Amateur.

What would you be doing if you were not playing golf? Can you imagine your life without golf in it?

If I didn’t play golf I’m sure I would be trying to play another sport. I could imagine not playing a sport. I’m very competitive.

How important is fitness to your success as a golfer?

I am constantly trying to get stronger in areas of my body that a weak in my golf swing. Over the past couple years, working out has played a big role in my success by helping to tighten up my golf swing.

The Walker Cup was played in Scotland. Was that your first time playing overseas?

No, I had never been overseas before but it was a heck of an experience being able to go over to compete with the best amateurs from our country. One of the greatest times of my life. It was a dream come true to play in that.

You played some events in Australia last fall. Tell me a little bit more about your trip Down Under.

Yes, I went and played the Aussie Open and PGA. I was over there for 3 weeks,. Great country! I had a great time over there. I was low amateur in the Open with a T19 which was very fun. I played a couple groups in front of Tiger so the crowds were crazy. Then I actually went back a few weeks later and played the Master of the Amateurs tournament at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. That was my favorite courses over there, just and outstanding track.

During The Spirit, I became friends with Peter Kessler. You actually did a few interviews with him. How cool was it being interviewed by the “voice of golf”?

That man has the greatest voice ever! It was really great talking with him. Just wished I sounded that cool!

You and Nathan Smith, another top-notch amateur player, played together during The Spirit. But he’s not as young as you. Some might call him old. You guys still keep in touch?

Yeah, I talk to Nathan a lot. We were friends before and talk when we can. He is a great guy. He may not be as young as me, but he can play some golf with the best of them! The Hitch was in full force at The Spirit.

Who is your favorite player? Who did you look up to as you made your way to the PGA TOUR?

I watched Tiger growing up. It was hard to not like the guy; he won everything. But I also really like to watch Fred Couples play. I think he flows well out there.

Social media services like Facebook and Twitter have taken the world by storm. I know you tweet. Which service do you like better, Twitter or Facebook?

I look at Twitter way more than Facebook.

Let’s say you win the Masters. What are you going to do with all that money?

Can’t take the money as an amateur! But I would throw a huge party! And probably get a little wild.

Do you still keep in touch with Trey Peden?

Yes, Trey and I speak every now and then. I try to get up to school and see the team every once in a while.

I know you are just getting started… but what are you looking forward to this year on the PGA TOUR? Any events you are excited to play? Well… besides the Masters!

Excited to play my first event at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. Also, I am very excited to play in the Texas stops. The Byron Nelson will be a blast. And hopefully the Colonial as well.

Have you ever had a hole in one?

Just 1.

How far do you hit your driver? Better yet… how far CAN you hit your driver?

I probably only hit it about 280. If I try and move one out there, I can hit it 300.

Who is in your dream foursome?

George Bush, Byron Nelson, Tiger Woods.