The dog in the race, indeed.
Senior Texas A&M golfer and Madisonville native Sam Bennett etched himself in the history books Sunday afternoon by winning the title at the 122nd USGA Amateur Championship at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, NJ. The Aggie clinched the title with a 1-up victory over Ben Carr of Georgia Southern in a 36-hole championship match on Sunday.
The No. 3 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking created quite a buzz around the Ridgewood grounds earlier this week when asked about his potential opponents in the Match Play portion of the tournament.
“They’re great players, but I’m a better player,” Bennett said. “I’m the dog in this race.”
In Sunday’s championship game, Bennett never followed Carr, taking a 3-half lead after being tied in eight. Back-to-back birdies at 20 and 21 saw Bennett’s advantage drop to a short-lived 5.
Carr sank a ridiculous putt from the green on 23, and a hole later he helped – again short of the green – to reduce the Aggie’s lead to 3. A double bogey from Bennett on 28 gave Carr another hole as the edge was cut at 2.
After missing a birdie putt at 30, Bennett regained a 3 lead when Carr failed to save par. On the 31st hole, both players’ second shots landed out of bounds, but both split the hole in half. However, it was Bennett who gifted Carr on 32 as the lead narrowed to two with four remaining. After ties at 33 and 34, Carr putt 20-for-35 to force a final hole, but another tie-for-36 earned the biggest win of Bennett’s young career.
Bennett’s march to history began on Monday, and after finishing the stroke game tied for 30th in the standings with rounds of 71 and 73, Sam found himself 36th. seeded on the Match Play bracket.
The Aggie then knocked out WAGR (World Amateur Golf Rankings) players #13, #27, #10, #9, #8, and #70 on their way to the crown jewel of amateur golf. .
Perhaps the most grueling game on the way to the title came on Saturday afternoon against North Carolina star Dylan Menante.
After having a 2 lead on the 13th tee, Bennett found himself tied with Menante by the time they took the 16th tee. However, there was no panic. Bennett showed he had that dog in him by birdie putting on the 17th to take a 1 lead he would never relinquish.
That putt and win came with all the pressure in the world for the youngster from Madisonville. Saturday’s Match Play semifinal victory allowed Bennett to play in the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National and the 2023 US Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
Despite earning such a prestigious honor, Sam looked almost phaseless on the 18th green after the win over Menante, telling Golf Channel’s 2007 USA Amateur Champion Colt Knost that “the job isn’t done.”
Sam played – and made the cut – as an amateur at the 2022 US Open at Brookline Country Club this summer, one of four amateurs to do so.
The American Amateur Championship has been organized annually by the USGA since 1895.
Bennett, a Madisonville High School multi-sport star, became the first golfer in Texas A&M history to win the historic Havemeyer Trophy.
Now comes the part of the story where we have a discussion; Where did Sam Bennett’s victory in the 2022 USA Amateur Rankings on Mount Rushmore from Texas A&M Athlete Achievements come from?
Obviously, I believe the discussion begins and ends with the 1957 and 2012 Heisman Trophies won by John David Crow and Johnny Manziel.
If you ask me, this victory is at this level.
Bennett writes his name in the amateur golf history books alongside big names like Bobby Jones (1924, 1925, 1927, 1928 and 1930), Jack Nicklaus (1959, 1961) and Tiger Woods (1994, 1995, 1996) .
Next, Sam turns his attention to the 2022-23 Texas A&M Men’s Golf season.
The Maroon & White, led by trainer Brian Kortan (who was on the sack this week for Bennett at the US Amateur), kicks off Sept. 11 at the Badger Invitational in Madison, WI.
TL;DR: The lead dog has won, and the job is done.