‘The golfing gods and him were working in my favor:’ Sam Bennett holds on to win U.S. Amateur
Sam Bennett has a tattoo on his forearm with the last message he got from his late father.
“Don’t wait to do something,” reads the message from his father, Mark, who passed away last year.
The fifth-year Texas A&M senior found himself looking back on the message during the final holes of the U.S. Amateur championship match on Sunday. “I’d take a glance at it and make me smile,” Bennett told NBC Sports’ Steve Burkowski after the match. “Just let me enjoy the moment, and I’m just happy to be here.” And Bennett had a moment to enjoy, holding off a second 18 charge from Georgia Southern’s Ben Carr to win the 2022 U.S. Amateur at Ridgewood Country Club 1-up.
It was probably a lot closer than he would have liked.
Bennett, the third-ranked amateur in the world, took a 3-up lead on the first 18 and extended it 5-up through 21 holes thanks to birdies on the second and third holes of the afternoon round.
Then Carr started to battle back, draining a long putt from off the green on the 24th for birdie, and then doing it again, this time with a chip-in on the 25th to climb back to three-down.
“He started dropping putts and chips from everywhere,” Bennett said of Carr. “It made me nervous.”
Carr could probably relate to what was going through Bennett’s head, playing with the memories of his late father, David, weighing on him. After their semifinal wins on Saturday, Carr said he hoped both of their fathers would be watching Sunday’s match together.
It was a good one to watch too, as both players birdied the 28th hole, the 503-yard par-4 9th, Bennett making a long curling down-hiller to put the pressure on Carr, who was within 10 feet for his second, to stay three down.
Carr did climb to 2 down on the 29th hole as Bennett made a double bogey from the left greenside bunker.
That was the spread when the pair came to the 35th hole, the long par-5 17th. Bennett laid up and hit his third onto the right side of the green and spun it down about 15 feet. Carr, needing to press, went for the green and put his second in left greenside bunker. Carr splashed out to about 20 feet and drained the putt to stay alive as Bennett missed his putt that would have won the match.
“He would not go away,” Bennett said of Carr.
On the 36th, Bennett pulled his second shot slightly on the long par-4, but it was just long and right enough to carry the bunker short of the green and leave him within 20 feet for his birdie try.
“The golfing gods and [my dad] were working in my favor,” he said.
A lag just short of the cup was good enough for Carr to concede and give Bennett the 1-up win.
“It’s a dream come true. It doesn’t feel real looking,” he said gazing at the Havemeyer trophy, which comes with exemptions into three majors next year. “All these people on the 18th green at Ridgewood. What? I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.
“It means a lot to hold that trophy. I’m sure tonight I’ll take a peek at all the names, but I know Tiger Woods name’s on that three times. And to put my name beside his, I know it’s something pretty special.”