How amateur Sam Bennett tamed Augusta National Golf Club in his Masters debut

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sam Bennett, the Texas A&M senior who qualified for the Masters Tournament by winning the U.S. Amateur last year, had a stellar debut at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday, shooting a 4-under par 68.

He also put his name in the tournament record book, tying the amateur mark by shooting 4-under 32 on the first nine.

The 23-year-old, who is No. 6 in the world amateur rankings, joined a group of seven players who have accomplished that feat – including Matt Kuchar in 1998, Ben Crenshaw in 1973 and Ken Venturi in 1956

The late Venturi holds the record for low round by an amateur for the 66 he shot in the first round in 1956, when he went on to finish second to Jack Burke Jr.

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Bennett birdied the first with a putt of 19 feet and then eagled the par-5 second with a beautiful chip-in from 23 yards. He also birdied the par-3 6th, draining a 23-footer, before closing with 12 consecutive pars.

Amateur Sam Bennett starts his first round at the Masters with a birdie on No. 1 and an eagle on No. 2. #themasters

— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 6, 2023

“I couldn’t have dreamed of a better start,” Bennett said. “I got out of the gates hot and then made a good one on No. 6, and from 6 on played steady golf. Hit a lot of good shots, give myself some looks, kept it under the hole. Bogey-free, that’s something I love probably the most out of everything. To go around this place bogey-free is pretty cool.”

The Aggie senior had Texas A&M coach Brian Kortan as his caddie, and the close friends had a round that neither will ever forget.

“It was awesome to be out there with all the patrons and hearing all the noises you hear when watching on TV,” Kortan said. “And Sam was able to calm himself and play golf. He earned his spot to play here and he deserved to be nervous on the first tee. When you’re nervous in a competitive place – there’s nothing like it.”

Bennett said having his coach with him on the bag was a game changer.

“He helped me get around this place good,” Bennett said. “We were smart, dialed in with our numbers, knew where we wanted to be. I had a lot of stress-free pars, which is what you want around this place.”

Bennett’s father, Mark, died in 2021 from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. And Bennett has an inspiring quote from his father “Don’t wait to do something” tattooed on his left forearm.

“Yeah, it was cool walking up 17 and 18. It was kind of gloomy all day, and then on 17 it was probably the prettiest view looking up that fairway, and 18 as well through the chute, the sun was shining,” Bennett said. “So I just wanted to make two more good swings, which I did – I mean, yeah, he’s always with me.”

He said his best shot of the day was one that some might not have noticed.

“On 17, I flushed an 8-iron. It was pretty solid, 20 feet,” Bennett said. “People don’t realize how good of a shot that is to that green from 170. I didn’t hit any just outstanding ones, but I was just stacking shots all day.”

Bennett played with a fellow Texan, defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, and Max Homa.

“Watching him get started in his round today was pretty fun,” Scheffler said. “He birdies the first, making like a 30-footer, and then he chips in. So that’s always fun to watch. I know how nervous he must have felt out there on first tee being an amateur. It’s just a different feeling, and then playing in your first Masters is a lot different too. So I’m really happy for him. He showed up and played a great round of golf.”

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