Sam Bennett had an incredible debut in Augusta National this week when the reigning US amateur champion proved he could go toe to toe with the best players in the world at the 87th Masters.
The 23-year-old settled in third after 36 holes, then showed his courage by battling in terrible conditions on Saturday to stay in the hunt.
The Texas A&M senior closed things out on Sunday, finishing his third round with a 76 and then shooting 74 in his last 18 to finish at 2-under-par, and tied for 16th with Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama. He took home the Silver Cup as an amateur low and came within two shots of a top-12 finish that would have clinched an invite to the 2024 Masters.
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“I’m going to need some time when I get back to relax and really look back and enjoy it,” said Bennett, the only fan to make the cut. “I haven’t had kids yet, so walking to 18 was definitely the best experience of my life. And walking to 12. I didn’t play like I wanted to this weekend, but this experience of playing on the weekend in Augusta is It will definitely help me be the golfer I want to be. And to be able to play the pins on Sunday was just amazing.”
He was within five strokes of the amateur record of 281 set by Charles R. Coe in 1961, and one stroke of the first 36 hole record of 135 set in 1956 by the late Ken Venturi. He was the first amateur to finish in the Top 20 since Ryan Moore was tied for 13th in 2005.
Bennett was excited as he rolled off the 18th green and was greeted by his mother, Stacy, who proudly followed the youngest of her three sons all week.
“It was just, from growing up as a kid watching this tournament to losing my father to the struggles I went through and still go through to be able to walk down that green at 18 on a Sunday, Easter Sunday, and just appreciate it all, I thought, I mean, If you had told me I was going to be here when I was a kid, I would have thought you were crazy,” Bennett said. “So to be able to do it, it’s great. Playing the Masters on Sunday, that’s what every golfer dreams of. I was happy to be able to do that.”
Ranked No. 6 in world amateur golf, Bennett had his Texas A&M coach Brian Kortan in the bag this week, just as he did when he won the US Amateur at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey in last august. when he beat out Georgia Southern’s Ben Carr to win the title.
He had a strong contingent of family and friends on the grounds at Augusta National all week, around 50 in total, and then thousands of other Masters sponsors jumping on the bandwagon to support Bennett, a very confident and upbeat young player. personality to go along with a compelling backstory.
His father, Mark, passed away in 2021 after battling early-onset Alzheimer’s. And Bennett remembers it every time he stands in front of a shot, as he has some inspiring words from his father, “Don’t wait to do something,” tattooed on his left forearm.
He went out and did something special this week in his first Major appearance and learned a lot from the experience.
“Playing in the final group on Saturday or Sunday, whatever, it was amazing, along with Rahm and Koepka,” Bennett said in the morning after finishing the third round that was halted due to inclement weather on Saturday. “The clients have been amazing, encouraging me and telling me to hang in there. They really make me feel welcome and comfortable here.”
He was asked if the reality of playing in his first Masters lived up to his expectations.
“That’s a good question. It sure is better than on TV. Just the people, the property, the hills, the slopes, the markers, I mean, the food. It was everything I could imagine. I really hope I’m behind.” Bennett said. “You can’t beat the 18 walk. That was good with the crowd cheering me on. And walking with my coach who helped me a lot. And then walking from the green to my brother and mom, that was a really cool time for us “.
Dennis Knight covers sports for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at Dknight@savannahnow.com. Twitter: @DennisKnightSMN
This article originally appeared on the Augusta Chronicle: Sam Bennett’s Masters thrill ride ends two shots out of top 12