Bennett earns prestigious honor


Madisonville High School graduate and Texas A&M freshman Sam Bennett and senior Chandler Phillips were named to the Division I PING All-Central Region Team at NCAA Championships last week.

The pair finished top-two statistically on the team as they helped the Aggies return to quarterfinal match play at NCAA Championships after winning back-to-back NCAA Regionals for the first time in program history. 

Bennett competed in 11 of the 12 events in his first collegiate season, making his debut at the Shoal Creek Invitational in the fall where he tied for fourth out of an 88-player field, shooting 4-under in his first tournament. Bennett was A&M's second-highest finisher at the Arizona Intercollegiate, shooting 5-under to tie for 16th in his first spring tournament. He earned a top-20 finish in stroke play at the SEC Championships and after a hard fought battle in the quarterfinals of match play, earned his first match play win against Arkansas on the final hole in the semifinals. He for 12th at the NCAA Pullman Regional shooting 7-under 203 (69-67-67), setting a new 54-hole season low. He shot par or lower in 18 rounds this season, including all three rounds of the NCAA Pullman Regional. Bennett, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, finished second on the team with a 71.85 stroke average, which ranks seventh in the all-time record book.

The Aggies concluded the 2019 season in quarterfinal match play at NCAA Championships last Tuesday morning. After a pair of historic advances, the seventh-seeded Aggies fell to second-seeded Vanderbilt 3-2-0, as extra holes decided the first match of the day at The Blessings Golf Club.

"I'm so proud of these guys, they fought so hard today," said head coach J.T. Higgins. "This never gets easier, it's the second year in a row we felt like we had them at the end and have come away empty handed. There was one point that we were down 4-0-1 on the back nine, and they just kept fighting and getting it back little by little. Dan [Erickson] fought so hard, his putt on 18 was amazing and then a hole later he had the heartbreak of missing a shorter one. He took a First Team All-American down to the wire after Sam [Bennett] and Chandler [Phillips] got wins for us. I'm just really proud of these guys, it was a great team and a great season."  

Phillips earned A&M's first win of the day to combat Vanderbilt's early 2-0 lead. After back-and-forth play, Phillips built on his one-hole lead and claimed holes 15 and 16 to seal the victory. Bennett quickly added another win for the Aggies as he broke a tie on 14 and played even the rest of the way to take the 1-up win. 

The match came down to junior Dan Erickson, who trailed for much of the front nine but battled back down the stretch. Erickson tied the match three times on the back nine and shot even on 18 to force extra holes, but fell on 19 by a stroke. 

A&M advanced to quarterfinal match play in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history, making its third match play appearance all-time. The Aggies qualified for their 32nd NCAA Championships as a team after winning the NCAA Pullman Regional, marking the third time they have won a Regional and the first time they have done so in back-to-back seasons. A&M's impressive post-season run came following its third appearance in the SEC Championships semifinals in the last four seasons, which also took extra holes to decide.