Bennett drives deep at U.S. Amateur

Posted 8/18/20

Former Madisonville High School and current Texas A&M golfer Sam Bennett made it to the round of 16 at the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship at the Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon. Bennett competed against more than 250 golfers at the event, which began Aug. 10 and concluded Sunday.

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Bennett drives deep at U.S. Amateur

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Former Madisonville High School and current Texas A&M golfer Sam Bennett made it to the round of 16 at the 120th U.S. Amateur Championship at the Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon. Bennett competed against more than 250 golfers at the event, which began Aug. 10 and concluded Sunday.

“It was fun going out there and competing,” said Bennett. “I had so much support back in Madisonville and I really appreciate everyone back home who sent me so many texts and calls.”

Bennett finished tied for 36th out of the entire field after the 36-hole, stroke-play phase Aug. 10-12. He finished two strokes under par in round two for a total score of 143 after the opening two days, qualifying for the field of 64.

He then defeated Andy Lopez of Dallas in the round of 64 and Clay Feagler of Laguna Niguel, Calif. in the round of 32 before falling to Aman Gupta of Concord, N.C. in the round of 16.

“It was a learning experience,” said Bennett. “I can consider myself one of the top amateurs in the world, and I have always known that, but this week has really been eye-opening for me, knowing what I am capable of accomplishing.”

Despite the top finish, Bennett was far from satisfied with his final standing.

“The last time I reached my personal expectations was my senior year at the state tournament,” said Bennett in reference to his second state title with MHS in May of 2018. “I am not going out there to finish second or to qualify for the round of 16. I told my brother before the week started that this was going to be my week. I really believe I should have won because I had so much confidence coming in, and I still do, but I did not live up to my expectations.”

In the round of 64, Bennett broke away from Lopez on the 11th hole. He took a two-stroke lead after the 13th hole and clinched his spot in the round of 32 by topping Lopez by another stroke on the 16th.

Bennett began building a lead over Feagler in the round of 32 after the third hole and never looked back. He led by as many as five strokes down then stretch and clinched another advancement with a four-stroke lead after the 15th.

Gupta got the best of Bennett in the round of 16 after seizing the lead on the seventh hole. He would ultimately build a five-stroke lead down the stretch and clinch the Quarterfinals after the 15th hole.

“(Gupta) just made his puts when it mattered,” said Bennett. “Under pressure, my putting was not good. I am a great putter, but it is probably what holds me back. I just didn't make them when I needed to. But I know what I need to work on, so next time it will be better.”

Bennett continues to impress on the golf course at the collegiate level after two state championships as a member of the Mustangs as well as four district and regional titles.

“Seeing (Bennett) get to the final 16 at the U.S. Amateur did not surprise me, seeing how hard he works on his game,” said MHS golf coach Russell Smith on his former standout. “What he did his freshman year at A&M was just a prelude to what would happen next. I am proud of what he has accomplished up to this point in his career. If you don't follow golf then you really don’t realize how big of a deal it is just to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. These are the best amateurs in the world competing at this tournament.”

Bennett is gearing up for his third season at Texas A&M, where he has been a member of the PING All-America Team (2020), PING All-Central Region Team (2019-20) and the All-SEC Team (2020).

Last week, he learned his coach was departing the program to take the same role at University of Southern California. J.T. Higgins led the Aggies to a national championship in 2009 and spent 19 seasons at A&M.

“(Higgins) installed a lot of principles that we respect and we are going to keep doing the same thing,” said Bennett. “He was much more than a golf coach to me, I told him everything. He had so much advice and has helped me out a lot, not just I golf, but in life.”

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