PARAMUS, N.J. — Sam Bennett made it to the top of the U.S. after a tough road. Amateur.
Bennett had to face many top stars, match after match, in order to reach the championship match at Ridgewood Country Club Sunday.
The Texas A&M senior finished the job to win the biggest tournament of his life.
Bennett, the No. Bennett, the No. 3 amateur player in the world, opened with a 3-up lead at lunch. He then extended the lead to 5 and then had Georgia Southern senior Ben Carr hold him off, winning 2 up.
Bennett stated, I started off to a hot start, then he started dropping chips and putts from everywhere after lunch. It made me nervous. I got very tight.
Bennett is used to dealing with difficult times.
His roots in golf began at a 9-hole course in Madisonville, Texas. It is about 100 miles north from Houston. This was where his father taught him how to play. His father saw enough passion that he bought a membership at A&Ms home course, where they went twice a month until Bennett was old enough to drive.
Ridgewood had a lot of belief. Bennett knew that he had to face tough opponents, but he also knew that he was just as capable. He played like it.
There were some moments that were not so great on the homestretch. Carr would love to have the shot back.
Both missed short putts at the 12th hole. Bennett maintained a 3-up lead heading to the long par-5 13. Bennett decided to hit fairway metal despite having a large lead. He instead pulled the ball so far left that it was out of bounds in some hedges.
Carr also went with fairway steel and followed him outbounds. They ended the day halving the hole using bogeys.
Just when it appeared that Bennett had it locked up he three-putted from 25 feet the next hole, missing a 3-footer.
Carr missed birdie opportunities on the next two holes. Carr had a par-5 17th-hole birdie chance. He won the hole, and Bennett led 1-up at the 18th.
Carr missed the fairway on the right and went into a collar of rough around green. Bennett drove into the fairway and hit it to 12 feet. Carr missed his chip, so Bennett had two chances to win.
He was able to drag it for inches before it was over.
Bennett said, Fortunately, I was able finish it off with an iron shot,
Bennett is exempt from the Masters, U.S Open and Open Championship next years.
Bennett stated that the victory meant everything. Its a dream come to life. … It is a great honor to be able to display that trophy.
Carr has the consolation of a traditional invitation to the Masters and a spot at the U.S. Open next season.
Carr stated that it was what Carr had hoped for as a child. It didn’t go the way I expected, but it was a close match. I played very well this weekend.
Bennetts father, Mark died last summer. The memory is not far away. When his father was in his early stages of Alzheimers disease, one of his last messages to Bennett was Don’t wait to do it. Bennett had his father write it, and he got the message tattooed on his arm. It is there every time he swings.
In this case, he waited to finish at Texas A&M, to give the U.S. Amateur one last shot. It paid off in a huge way.